Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (First sitting)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: † Mr Adrian Bailey, Sir Edward Leigh
† Argar, Edward (Charnwood) (Con)
† Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
† Duffield, Rosie (Canterbury) (Lab)
† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)
† Foxcroft, Vicky (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
† Hayes, Mr John (Minister for Transport Legislation and Maritime)
† Jones, Graham P. (Hyndburn) (Lab)
† Kerr, Stephen (Stirling) (Con)
† Knight, Sir Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)
† Letwin, Sir Oliver (West Dorset) (Con)
† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)
† Rodda, Matt (Reading East) (Lab)
† Stephenson, Andrew (Pendle) (Con)
† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)
† Turner, Karl (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
† Western, Matt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
Farrah Bhatti, Mike Everett, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
David Williams, Technical Director, AXA Insurance, and Chair, Autonomous Driving Insurance Group
Iwan Parry, Head of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, Transport Research Laboratory
Ben Howarth, Senior Policy Advisor, Motoring Liability Insurance, Association of British Insurers
Diana Holland, Assistant General Secretary for Transport, Unite Union
Adrian Jones, National Officer for Road Transport, Unite Union
Rob Johnston, Assistant General Secretary, ITF
Robert Llewellyn, TV Presenter, Fully Charged
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 31 October 2017
[Mr Adrian Bailey in the Chair]
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
Before we begin, I have a few preliminary announcements. Please switch any electronic devices off or to silent. Tea and coffee are not allowed during sittings, but there is an adequate supply of water. Today we will first consider the programme motion on the amendment paper. We will then consider a motion to enable the reporting of written evidence for publication and a motion to allow us to deliberate in private about our questions before the oral evidence session. In view of the time available, I hope we can take those matters formally, without debate.
(1) the Committee shall (in addition to its first meeting at 9.25 am on Tuesday 31 October) meet—
(a) at 2.00 pm on Tuesday 31 October;
(b) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 2 November;
(c) at 9.25 am and 2.00 pm on Tuesday 14 November;
(d) at 11.30 am and 2.00 pm on Thursday 16 November;
(2) the Committee shall hear oral evidence on Tuesday 31 October in accordance with the following Table:
Time Witness Until no later than 10.30 am Automated Driving Insurers Group; TRL; Association of British Insurers Until no later than 11.00 am Unite; ITF Until no later than 11.25 am Robert Llewelyn, presenter, Fully Charged Until no later than 3.00 pm Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; RAC Foundation; Petrol Retailers Association; Institute of the Motor Industry Until no later than 3.45 pm Quentin Willson, Journalist and TV presenter Until no later than 4.15 pm National Grid; UK Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment Association; UK Power Network Until no later than 5.00 pm TRL; FiveAI
Until no later than 10.30 am
Automated Driving Insurers Group; TRL; Association of British Insurers
Until no later than 11.00 am
Until no later than 11.25 am
Robert Llewelyn, presenter, Fully Charged
Until no later than 3.00 pm
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders; RAC Foundation; Petrol Retailers Association; Institute of the Motor Industry
Until no later than 3.45 pm
Quentin Willson, Journalist and TV presenter
Until no later than 4.15 pm
National Grid; UK Electrical Vehicle Supply Equipment Association; UK Power Network
Until no later than 5.00 pm
(3) proceedings on consideration of the Bill in Committee shall be taken in the following order: Clauses 1 to 16; Schedule; Clauses 17 to 19; new Clauses; new Schedules; remaining proceedings on the Bill;
(4) the proceedings shall (so far as not previously concluded) be brought to a conclusion at 5.00 pm on Thursday 16 November.—(Mr Hayes.)
The deadline for amendments to be considered at the first line-by-line sitting of the Committee was the rise of the House yesterday, and the next deadline will be the rise of the House on Thursday for the Committee’s meeting a week today. [Interruption.] I have just been informed that the deadline will in fact be one week on Thursday.
That, subject to the discretion of the Chair, any written evidence received by the Committee shall be reported to the House for publication.—(Mr Hayes.)
Copies of written evidence that the Committee receives will be made available in the Committee Room.
That, at this and any subsequent meeting at which oral evidence is to be heard, the Committee shall sit in private until the witnesses are admitted.—(Mr Hayes.)
We will now go into a private session to discuss the questioning.
The Committee deliberated in private.
Examination of Witnesses
David Williams, Iwan Parry and Ben Howarth gave evidence.
David Williams: I am David Williams. I am technical director at AXA Insurance and chair of the Autonomous Driving Insurance Group.
Iwan Parry: I am Iwan Parry, the head of connected and autonomous vehicles at TRL, the Transport Research Laboratory.
Ben Howarth: I am Ben Howarth. I am senior policy advisor for motoring liability insurance at the Association of British Insurers.
The first question is from Clive Efford.
David Williams: I do not think they will become more complicated, because I think the information that should be made available from the autonomous vehicle will make it much easier to establish what has happened. If you think of the sensors that are involved in getting the vehicle around safely, there are traditional cameras, lidar, radar, ultrasound and all those sorts of things; that will give a much more complete picture than we currently have. A lot of insurance claims at the current time are based on different opinions with very little evidence to substantiate them. We still send people out to measure skid marks in the road, for instance; so we will be moving to a much clearer but more granular position. There will be a lot more data, so I suppose it will be more complex in that way, but I think, in terms of establishing who is responsible, things should be clearer.
Iwan Parry: I would add that it is quite important that we establish with these technologies that that capture of the data that David has described is a requirement of the vehicles. That really builds on the kinds of data that are captured by vehicles today but which are not necessarily available for investigators when it comes to investigating road traffic accidents, which could be very useful for in-depth investigations, in some cases. Therefore, as vehicles become more complex, with a greater ability to capture external data in the moments before a collision, we believe that it is very important that those vehicles are able to preserve that information and make it available to the appropriate and authorised investigators, in terms of understanding what has happened during that incident sequence.
Iwan Parry: It could do. There is a mechanism in the Bill, in terms of the list of vehicles that would be approved as an automated vehicle, and potentially part of qualifying for that list might be that a vehicle would fulfil certain required criteria.
David Williams: The capability is there. I think we are then drifting into data that motor manufacturers would not necessarily want to share with third parties. They would argue that maybe that driving information is something that they could use for different business purposes. There is currently a big debate in the telematics market about whether there will still be a future for separate telematics boxes being fitted in these vehicles to provide insurance and other solutions when the vehicles are being driven manually; but certainly there would be the capability to record that information.
Ben Howarth: My view on that would be that when the transition is from the driver to the car, the driver has to be responsible for what is happening to some degree throughout the whole of that transition phase. Once they have actually got confirmation that the car is in autonomous mode, that is the point when they are no longer responsible. In reverse, when the car is transitioning back to the driver, the same applies, but the driver is not responsible until they have taken full control of the vehicle. I think that is the easiest way to deal with that.
David Williams: We are involved in a number of the Government-backed consortia. There is Venturer in Bristol; the first trials that were carried out with the Venturer vehicles and in the simulator were with regard to the handover. There are two elements that need to be decided on. I agree with Ben that you should not make somebody responsible until they have fully taken control, whether that is the machine or a human being, but nobody has really worked through that. The other aspect is about making sure that the vehicle has controls that do not try to hand over too quickly. As insurers, one of the things we are very concerned about is that handover. People may be surprised at how long it actually takes a human who has been disengaged to get up to speed, so to speak, so that they are alert enough to be able to drive the vehicle safely. That is why it will take a while for European vehicle manufacturing regulations to catch up, but there will be regulations that require minimum periods and indicators and signalling during that handover phase, because that is essential for keeping these safe.
Ben Howarth: A key point is that while there are lots of data that other parties—police, investigators—might want, insurers are clear that we only want the data when a collision has occurred to confirm whether the car was in automated mode or not. I do not think we are looking to use the Bill as a way of grabbing loads and loads of data and tracking cars from A to B.
David Williams: No, that is the opposite of what the Bill is trying to achieve. There will be accidents on the roads where nobody is to blame, as there are now. If you can have an accident with a human driver where nobody is to blame, you can have that with an automated vehicle. For instance, a vehicle is driving carefully down a road but there is some black ice and it skids off and takes out a bus queue—I know that is a bit of a dramatic scenario—but everything has functioned perfectly. The Bill makes it clear that is an accident—injury has been caused by the autonomous vehicle—and it would be paid for by the insurer. In that circumstance there is unlikely to be any recovery from the motor manufacturer, but the whole point of the Bill is to give the general public the confidence that if somebody is injured, we do not have to worry about whether we are going to claim that the software was defective. If somebody is injured by an automated vehicle, there will be virtually a strict liability on the insurer and we will deal with that claim.
I have had Graham Jones, Karl Turner, the Minister, Iain Stewart, Oliver Letwin and Craig Tracey indicate that they want to ask supplementary questions. Is there anybody else? I will take the Minister next.
Ben Howarth: Yes, I think so. I think the definition that you have used in the Bill is clear. To me, it is pretty unambiguous that we are talking about cars that are being entirely driven themselves. I anticipate that there will be a pretty detailed consultation on how you actually draw up the list of vehicles and define what is and is not an automated vehicle. We are obviously very keen to be involved in that and to provide views. Within the industry and within the Association of British Insurers’ work, we have made a bit of progress in working out what we think the criteria for an automated car are, and those are views that we definitely want to feed in. So, yes.
I will see that you do not.
Ben Howarth: Yes, I think it is very clear. We have a very competitive market for insurance. If we see claims costs coming down, which much safer vehicles would definitely do, we would be looking at a similar effect on insurance premiums. We cannot say exactly what will happen until we have seen the cars in real life.
Ben Howarth: Yes, it is very welcomed by the industry. I think it is very clear that the legislation and broadly the development of automated driving are something that insurers are genuinely enthusiastic about. In terms of the work we do in the ABI, it is one of the areas where we get the most engagement and interest from our members.
“are in the Secretary of State’s opinion designed or adapted to be capable, in at least some circumstances or situations, of safely driving themselves.”
The clause allows the Secretary of State to come up with a list of vehicles that he or she thinks are capable of being driven safely without being operated manually at all. The definition does not seem tight to me.
Ben Howarth: I would make two points on that. On the one hand, we would obviously want to see robust and good consultation on how that list is put together. We would want it to be transparent and we would want the opportunity as an industry to feed into that. The wording does have an advantage in that it clearly states “safely driving themselves”. One of our views is that we want a clear and unambiguous distinction between cars that are completely hands-off—maybe not for the whole of the journey, but for parts of the journey—versus cars where the manufacturer might be saying, “You can do a lot with the automated functions, but you need to be there hovering over the steering wheel as a backstop.” We do not want those things to be blurred, and the definition in the Bill does that.
If I can make one further point, being on the list is clear—there is a definition—but there will also be a role for insurers to play in thinking about, “We have a claims history and car A is brilliant and has a really good safety record, while car B might not be a very good functioning car, but it has got itself on to the list.” Insurers will want to take a view on that in terms of how they approach those vehicles in offering products.
Ben Howarth: I think the onus to do those software updates should definitely be on the manufacturer. They should ensure that the system works, and I think that links back to part 1. The Bill says that where a wilfully negligent person deliberately ignores what the manufacturer wants them to do and finds a way around the manufacturer’s systems and still takes the car on the road, it would be unreasonable to say that that person is still a victim. I think you need this protection in the Bill, but you also need robust measures to ensure that people cannot override the safety-critical updates.
I think “safety-critical” is the key phrase. That places a strong incentive on the manufacturer to say, “If the update is safety-critical, you have to ensure that the driver knows.” We have got to be absolutely clear that there is a distinction between “nice to have” upgrades, that perhaps involve a slight improvement in the maps functionality or something like that, and an upgrade where if you do not have it, the car is potentially unsafe and we have a problem.
Ben Howarth: I think what we have in the Bill is the right way. When these cars first come to road, most users/drivers will probably use the automated function for 10% or 20% of the journey. That is why we want to keep to a system with an all-in-one approach. The Government have described this as
“a rolling programme of regulatory reform”,
so if we really move to having cars without steering wheels or genuinely A-to-B autonomous cars we probably need to look again at what the right approach to insurance is, but I think the technology is a long way from that.
Ben Howarth: We think it definitely should apply. I know that there have been discussions between the MIB and Department officials about the correct way to do that, and it will be interesting to see how the Committee approaches it. My understanding is that the reason for not having the MIB scheme in the Bill is that it is not in the Road Traffic Act 1988 either, so the existing system is not directly in primary legislation. I think the MIB will be assured so long as the Government confirm that it is still the ultimate fund of last resort, which it definitely should be. It does not necessarily need to be in the Bill, but we would like absolute clarity on how it will work.
“updates that the insured person knows, or ought reasonably to know, are safety-critical.”
That strikes me as very woolly. I would be grateful for your opinion on where the balance should lie. I accept that if someone has wilfully not installed updates or overwritten them, or something, they become liable. However, if the manufacturer has sent through an update, but the person has not taken it to the garage or downloaded the software—or whatever—at what point do they become liable? I have an update waiting for my iPhone, but I have not got round to doing it. That is not safety-critical, but is there a parallel? Do we need a tighter definition than “ought reasonably to know”?
David Williams: It is interesting that you mention the iPhone, because that is exactly the debate that we had in our early discussions. Currently, for most things you buy, you have the right to refuse a software update. You are allowed not to get round to doing your iPhone update; you can continue to bypass it. Our view was that when we are talking about a tonne of metal travelling at high speed on the road, people should lose that right, because it would enable them to take risks with other people’s lives. We think the updates should be implemented straight away, because we see them as being improvements. As for whether they are safety-critical or not, it would be a damn sight easier if all updates had to be implemented immediately and the responsibility fell on the manufacturer, but then you are drifting into trying to impose something in UK legislation that some European territories and motor manufacturers have probably not really thought through yet.
The idea of saying that people have to install safety-critical updates immediately is something that we recommend. As for the detail of how it should be dealt with in the Bill, I have to plead ignorance, but the reason for pushing for it is that we honestly believe that if a manufacturer has updated the software, it is to make the vehicle perform better. These are not iPhones that can only annoy other people; these are vehicles that can kill other people. Those updates should be mandatory in whatever way we can make them so.
David Williams: I think the Bill is trying to allow for some delay, but a reasonable delay, and does not want people to deliberately and unnecessarily stall. If an update is coming through—if they have found a fatal flaw in the software that is likely to make your vehicle veer off the road—my view is that that vehicle should be immobile until the software update is implemented. The motor manufacturers would be able to build that into their technology and machines if they wanted to.
David Williams: My understanding is that that sounds very good in principle, but how do you define that extent? Many upgrades might have a degree of safety- critical improvements in their nature. How would you define the seriousness of the upgrade?
Ben Howarth: Clause 4(6)(b) is a definition—that feels to me like it means that it is unsafe to use. If you started saying at this stage a car must be immobilised, we would potentially be legislating for things that we do not know the manufacturers will do in every circumstance. There might be times when the car could move. It might be safe to move it at 20 miles per hour or so—I am just speculating. Is it right to put it in the Bill at this stage? I would definitely say that it is something that needs to be carefully defined and thought about when you create the list of automated vehicles. I know we keep coming back to “the list is everything”, but I think the list is the mechanism by which many of the potential problems of the Bill will get solved.
Let me lay out an example and ask your view of the Bill. If somebody switches to manual from automated and is involved in an accident while in excess of 30 miles per hour. What happens next? How much of that data becomes available in the case that ensues? For instance, I presume that speed would be used, but what about the on-board cameras or anything else? How much of this data will be kept, retained and used from the functions of the vehicle for a case in which there is an accident with a driver in manual mode? Does the Bill provide a robust framework for accidents and insurance claims and what about road safety? Will it enhance road safety or are we stopping at legitimate information for insurance companies? Should the Bill also include data made available so that road safety is improved?
Iwan Parry: The basis of the question is around the availability of data. My technical background is in forensic accident investigation and in order to investigate accidents—to get to the root cause—we need to start at the before-accident period and understand as much as we can. We are limited today to things such as skid marks, as David referred to earlier, as the tools to reconstruct those accidents. The kinds of data that are potentially available from electronic vehicles increase the amount of data significantly. With the cameras, radar, lidar—light detection and ranging—and ultrasonic sensors we can get a very clear picture of what was going on around the vehicle at the time of an incident. When we look at the consequences of an incident, we can put the two together and have a very clear understanding from establishing liability and whether that indicates that the vehicle in some way behaved unreasonably—or that the driver, pedestrian or cyclist that it was interacting with behaved unreasonably given the context of the situation. That gives us the information that would allow us to make a determination on liability. I think that is critical to insurers, to police investigating such incidents and to road safety in the future.
To advance the future legislation on autonomous vehicles, we will need a method to understand what is going wrong in the real world. We will also need a method to use that information to improve our understanding of vehicle functioning in the real world and how that can be improved by manufacturers or by legislators applying the right tools to ensure that vehicle performance is improved over time.
Ben Howarth: If I could add the insurance perspective on that, for what we need to do for this Bill—to establish whether the car was in automated or manual mode—we need a fairly limited amount of data. You mentioned speed, but we do not necessarily need speed to do that. We just need to know whether it was in automated mode. There are potentially lots of other uses for car data for the police and for accident investigators. In a disputed claim with contradictory evidence in court, you could find it a lot easier to solve cases with data, but I would draw a distinction between the data that insurers need to make this Bill operational and the data from cars that would be useful to understand claims. That might be a valid concern for vehicles not covered by this Bill; as cars get more technically sophisticated with more assisted functions, you might want to understand more about how it works for any car. I think whether it is reasonable to ask for data is still best managed via a judge.
It is also important, if we want the data, that manufacturers record it. My understanding is that at the moment, if you hit a pedestrian in an accident, you will not necessarily trigger an airbag so the data that the car keeps on a rolling basis are not automatically recorded or stored and they would not be available. As part of the work to define an automated car, we need more clarity about what data are recorded and stored and about the process to ensure that the data are sent to the right people at the right time. An insurer is one party that would want some of the data.
David Williams: My view is that the Bill undoubtedly aids road safety because it will encourage the use of safer vehicles on the roads, but in terms of data, no—the Bill does not have a robust framework for provision, storage and transmission of those data. I think that is partly because of the stage that we are at. Some things are contentious and some are not. Data sharing is really contentious, whether because of general data protection regulation or because motor manufacturers are concerned about infringement of their intellectual property. We are very keen for there to be some clarity about the storage and transmission of data, the form that data are transmitted in so that they are useful, and the speed of transmission—there is no point us getting the data three months later. That is not in the Bill.
When we had the original discussions, we talked about data. We were still forming our opinions about what data would be required—as I say, that is very contentious. Our view was that it was better to support a Bill that would be part of a rolling programme of legislation and acknowledge that more needed to be done on that data piece than to delay it. We feel that delaying connected and autonomous vehicles hitting our roads would have a negative impact on road safety.
Waiting to ask questions, I have Sir Oliver Letwin, Craig Tracey, Alan Brown, Edward Argar, Scott Mann and Sir Greg Knight. Is there anybody else? Clive Efford, you wish to come in with another?
If the questioners and the panellists could be very pithy and pointed, that would be helpful.
David Williams: Yes.
Iwan Parry: I am not an insurance professional, so I will not answer that question.
Ben Howarth: Yes.
David Williams: They may have another motor policy that would cover them for driving other vehicles. That is common practice in the UK but not every policy provides that.
David Williams: There is a chance, I suppose, but I do not think that we would have a dual insurance situation, because the other insurance would insure the actions of that individual, whereas the autonomous policy would cover the actions of the autonomous vehicle. If the vehicle is operating autonomously, it is not being controlled by that driver and therefore they would have no liability.
David Williams: Transferred control of the vehicle to the—
David Williams: I think so, because if the vehicle is operating autonomously, strict liability applies. If it is about to crash into a wall and he has flicked the vehicle into autonomous mode, but it has not had the opportunity to take control, we come back to one of the earlier questions—
It has taken control, so strict liability attaches to the—
David Williams: That is my take on it, but I would say that it is difficult for me to imagine circumstances where doing that would be inappropriate and where someone would still be able to switch a car into autonomous mode.
Iwan Parry: I think it is unlikely that an autonomous system engaged in that kind of transfer would accept control in a situation where it was then unable to avoid a high-risk scenario of some type, resulting in some kind of incident.
David Williams: But we want the man in the street to know that if a vehicle is operating autonomously, compensation will be available. That is why there is strict liability. We might not like the particular scenario, if we can think of one that might happen, but I agree: my interpretation is that strict liability would apply.
Ben Howarth: The difference being that the driver might not have the same rights.
David Williams: I am not aware of the planned timetable. There are two aspects: first, the vehicle has to get on the list and insurers then need to decide whether they will insure those vehicles. If, for some reason, a motor manufacturer decides they are either not capable of making or are not going to make any of that information available even if it ends up on the list, it will struggle to get insurance in the UK market.
There are lots of things that do need further discussion. These vehicles are not really going to be on the road for a number of years, so setting out the UK’s intention from a headline regulatory view and commenting that data need to be available while we work on that is one thing. I am not fussed as to whether or not it is an amendment, but it would be sad if the amendment took two years to get through because the motor manufacturers’ lobby blocked it.
Ben Howarth: I would also point out that a lot of the technical side will be taken up at a UN/ECO global level, so it might not be feasible to define it in the Bill and then have to change it. The more sensible route might be to see how the technical discussions go at global level and ensure that the way the list operates is robust, rather than put it in the Bill.
Iwan Parry: There are also a number of projects going on right now that will be helping insurers and safety experts to define what those kinds of criteria should be, and the data that should be retained. It would be worth giving those projects time to report on those requirements.
Ben Howarth: If you are interested, we have put a report out and defined what data we think we would want as part of this Bill for the insurance industry, and we have published that.
Ben Howarth: I think there is a distinction to be made in relation to the data that the insurers would need as a condition of this Bill. The industry would love more data, as that helps with pricing. However, it is appropriate to ask what the insurance company needs and then to regulate that in order to make this Bill work. I refer to insurance companies, but actually it concerns what information the claimant would need for the purposes of verifying whether or not they have the right to make a claim. That is a key distinction. The more data that the insurers can potentially get on a commercial basis the better, but we recognise that there have to be controls on that.
Iwan Parry: I would add to that: as mentioned earlier, there is a difference between the limited amount of information that an insurer might require to understand whether the vehicle was being controlled by the vehicle or controlled by a driver, and information that could be beneficial from a road safety point of view that could also act as evidence from a capture and perspective point of view. This information will inform future policy at governmental level and potentially at legislative level. That is a more detailed source of data, and it would also be of the type that would assist more detailed investigations of what went wrong if an automated vehicle had an accident.
Ben Howarth: We probably do not yet know enough about getting the data from the car to the insurance industry. Some work has started to be done via the Motor Insurance Bureau: as well as being the guarantee fund, they do a lot of data-sharing for the industry. We are confident that once we have data from a car, then the process of getting it to the insurer and settling the claim will be efficient. We would want confirmation that we can get it from the vehicle, but we have already started discussing that with the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. That is something that can definitely be achieved within the timescales required.
Iwan Parry: That relates directly to the point I have just made about the detail of the data. In that scenario, in order to resolve the question you would require a more detailed amount of data than purely who was in charge of the vehicle. It would be a question of what the variety of contributory factors to that collision were, what the vehicle systems saw and what they did in response to what they saw, and whether that can be related back to the functionality of the piece of software that was due for install. You would require a much more detailed set of data to resolve that question.
David Williams: Lots of work has been done on this by insurance companies and by market consultants, and they predict substantial reductions in the total premium pot. A couple of statistics—we think that 93% or 94% of accidents are caused by human error. I have driven in these machines; they are already much better drivers than most human beings. When we look at things like automated emergency braking systems—that is just one component of what will be the autonomous vehicle of the future—we know that they reduce accidents by 15% and injuries by 18%. So even if they cannot prevent the accident completely and absolutely, because they are braking better and faster there are fewer injuries.
We see a substantial impact. There will probably be a slight increase initially because you will have more expensive gadgets strapped around the periphery of vehicles, but once we see a higher proportion of these vehicles on the road, consultants predict a 50%-plus reduction in the total motor premium market. From our perspective, we are planning in that regard. The good thing is that it will not happen overnight, and therefore as we see motor premiums reduce we can move our staff and our capital on to other lines of business.
David Williams: One of the consortia we are involved with, Flourish, is looking at cyber-risks and also at mobility, at segments of society that currently feel cut off—people, who perhaps are disabled, living in a rural area and not able to get out and about. That is one of the reasons we want this Bill to go ahead and are keen to support it. Absolutely, it will support that.
In terms of volumes of cars on the road, there are numerous different models. Overall, the view is that there would be fewer vehicles, because this will enable car sharing on a scale that has not previously been seen, but in terms of number of miles covered, there are diverging opinions. One thing that might happen is that, because it will be as easy to get a car even if you do not own one as it is to get a train or similar, more people will move to transport on the road, which will drive up the number of miles. There are other views that there will be an integrated transport network, meaning that more people use public transport because they are much more able to link into it than they are now. I think the jury is out in that regard.
It will absolutely reduce premiums. The other aspect is that even when we have a mixed car park of manual and automated vehicles, because 50% of those vehicles will be safer, although the premiums on manual vehicles will decrease less, they will be less exposed and involved in fewer accidents, so overall that will have a positive impact from a premiums perspective, even on manual vehicles, as the number of automated vehicles increases.
Ben Howarth: Yes.
David Williams: No.
Ben Howarth: We are covering the liabilities. I think they are already there in the Road Traffic Act 1988, on insurers, but it would be extending those existing liabilities to the vehicle. I do not think we are responsible for criminal offences such as speeding now. I think you would have to find another way of—
Ben Howarth: You may need to look at whether or not there are additional criminal offences associated with automated cars. Certainly, this Bill does not compel insurers to pay speeding fines or any other. Ditto if an autonomous car parked illegally in a parking space. If it injured someone or damaged property, that would be the insurer’s responsibility; if it parked and received a parking fine, that would be the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle or another party. You may need to look at that in legislation, but I definitely do not think the Bill does that at the moment, and we would not support it if it did.
David Williams: But in all honesty, if someone was on a smart motorway and had connected an autonomous vehicle, they would be more likely to notice the reduction in speed than you or I would. It is a hypothetical question. I think the point, from our perspective, is that the Bill does not compel insurers to pay these sorts of fines. Yes, there are some other legal aspects that need to be debated, but this is about extending the Road Traffic Act 1988 to provide protection in line with the RTA, not about other criminal offences.
Iwan Parry: Yes. I think there should certainly be some clarity around the types of data that we would regard as beneficial and that could qualify for the list that will be established. The vehicle’s ability to make available those data would potentially be a qualification criterion.
Iwan Parry: This is very much part of the research and development that industry is doing right now, but the expectation on manufacturers providing access to an automated control system would be that, in that handover situation, the vehicle would be assessing the circumstances of the traffic and the road conditions surrounding it and would accept the handover only if it was able to respond appropriately to that traffic scenario.
Iwan Parry: The vehicle would be expected to be aware of what is around it at all times, and during a process—as it was described earlier—of handover, whereby the person or the vehicle that is in control at a particular time will remain in control until the other half of the equation is ready to assume control, that readiness to assume control can be determined only by sensing what is around it in the specific scenario that the vehicle is driving in, and accepting that it is now able to assume that control in a safe manner.
David Williams: This is a key point, because there will be many vehicles that can operate autonomously—initially, at least, only in certain environments, certain designed domains. For instance, I would imagine that the first ones that come to market will be able to operate on motorways and dual carriageways. [Interruption.] Exactly. Therefore, if you are travelling down Clapham High Street and you want to flick the vehicle into autonomous mode, it will not accept control.
David Williams: It is something we need to be aware of, which is why we asked Venturer to do handover first of all; I think guidance needs to be provided. I think it is less likely to be a safety risk and more likely to be a congestion risk, but the other aspect is that when we are doing these tests, we are deliberating doing on, off, on, off. In my vision of the future and, I think, the way motor manufacturers are designing vehicles, it will not be like that. It might be that you drive on the country roads because you enjoy that and then you hit the motorway and flick the vehicle into autonomous mode for the next couple of hours. But yes, we need to understand and provide appropriate training and guidance on the handover; that is something we still need to understand more about.
David Williams: We always worry about insurance premium tax increasing.
David Williams: I think there will be, in the same way as there are many variations even to the Uber model now, many variations to autonomous vehicles. I think the advantage will be that you will not have to stick your hand out to stop a bus; the vehicle could potentially come into your drive and then go back out and continue its journey.
Order. I am afraid that brings us to the end of the time allotted for the Committee to ask questions. I thank our witnesses on behalf of the Committee for their evidence and I also thank Members for their admirable self-control and brevity.
Examination of Witnesses
Diana Holland, Adrian Jones and Rob Johnston gave evidence.
We will now hear evidence from Unite and ITF. We have until only 11 am for this session. Will the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?
Adrian Jones: I am Adrian Jones. I am Unite union’s national officer for road transport.
Diana Holland: I am Diana Holland, Unite’s assistant general secretary for transport.
Rob Johnston: I am Rob Johnston, assistant general secretary at the ITF.
I am going to start again with Clive Efford.
Diana Holland: I think that is the crux of the matter. Obviously, while the Bill covers a very limited aspect of what the important role of these changes can mean, we are particularly concerned, as the previous discussion demonstrated, that the only concentration is assuming issues around private drivers, whereas the implications of this go into all modes of transport where automation will apply.
We are particularly concerned about the current methods of employment, particularly within certain parts of the road transport industry. That means that liability will be very unclear. There are all sorts of drivers who are accounted as owner-drivers but, actually, in the way in which the contract has been established they are workers to all intents and purposes.
We are very concerned, for example, about bogus self-employment contracts and leasing of vehicles: all those things that will mean that all kinds of people could end up being held liable when they should not be in those circumstances.
Diana Holland: We have two areas of concern. One is about issues that are not addressed by the Bill but have implications for the impact of driverless technology on the transport industry and on transport policy in our communities. I think there are problems and the House of Lords report is extremely clear about all the outlying issues: job losses, job creation, job shifts. We would want that to be part of the discussion that goes on around this.
We are very concerned about some of the wording, specifically in clause 3(2) and clause 4(4), (5) and (6) around the software engineers. All sorts of people could be encompassed within that or it could lead to knock-on effects on people who work in the transport industry or in software engineering. They could be implicated either by the employer concerned or by the policies of the insurance company. We would want that to be addressed.
Adrian Jones: It absolutely is. As was said in the previous session, when a driver is not concentrating on driving, their attention is elsewhere and the transition back to driving is a slower process. The agreed trials for platooning are part of the debate and should not be forgotten. If you have three vehicles in a platoon, you have a driver in the front vehicle that is controlling the other two vehicles, what are the other two drivers doing? When they come to the end of the motorway or road where the platoon is taking place, what do they then do?
We also have the concern raised in this very room about 18 months ago. The report from AXA suggested over £5 billion a year savings in labour costs, due to the introduction of automated vehicles. That clearly says to me that there is either a downgrading or lack of recognition of professional drivers who are carrying freight, passengers or anything else. I think there is a real concern that the Bill does not cover any of those aspects at all. If it is not covered in this Bill, it needs to be covered somewhere.
On the specific point about job growth and job shift—you made a very balanced point about how some jobs will change, some will grow and some will shift—I want to come back to the issue raised by previous witnesses about people who currently cannot or do not drive. In rural areas, for example, in many places in Cornwall, Lincolnshire, Dorset and similar places, half the parishes do not have access to public transport. Can you imagine a future where autonomous vehicles will fill that void and provide a link to public transport, perhaps buses, trains and so on, and therefore boost the use of that transport for people who currently cannot get there. They will have access to autonomous vehicles because they are straightforward things to drive.
Diana Holland: Cards on the table: Unite is not opposed to technological advances, autonomous vehicles or anything in this area. It is about how it is done, the basis on which it is done and making sure that safety is absolutely critical. We are slightly concerned about the current moves. We believe that risk-based health and safety management needs to be properly built into this and we are slightly concerned that that is not recognised. We are not opposed to this in any way—it provides all sorts of opportunities—but because the overall approach is about private individualised driving rather than about the implications for the whole road transport industry of passengers, as Adrian was saying, with road haulage and taxis, it is also going to operate on a marine basis, in agriculture and all those other things. The concentration on private vehicles is going to advance this in such a way that I think there is a danger that it skews the potential for developments by concentrating on one aspect to the exclusion of the others. Does Rob want to mention your wider point about the commissioners?
Rob Johnston: To pick up on a couple of points, I think some of the challenges are about the definition of automation, which is at the root. We work with a number of global institutions, employers’ bodies and manufacturers. We have developed a framework of five layers of automation. When you look at what we are discussing, at least three or four of those layers need to be included. On the point just made about people who cannot drive potentially being able to drive, there is also a question about the definition of the amount of automation needed to give them that mobility. It is very difficult not to consider the whole piece. In the end, it will not be a journey from where we are today to suddenly having fully automated vehicles. It will be a process as technology slowly comes through. In particular, platooning, which is one of the areas that we are likely to see in a relatively short time period, would not be covered under the Bill in its current format.
Diana Holland: Absolutely. We believe that representatives of the workforce need to be part of that discussion but, as trade unions, we are often not included in those kinds of debates. We have discussions with employers where we have recognition, but plenty of people operate in the industry and there are areas where our voices are not heard. We think it is essential that they are.
Diana Holland: I think it is absolutely essential that there is the transport skills infrastructure body that exists at the moment. I was looking at its terms of reference—
It is a good point.
Diana Holland: I was quite concerned when I looked at those terms. Although there is some implication about developments in technology, it seemed that we would need to look at the way it is worded to ensure that it properly reflects this. Otherwise, the Bill will not provide the opportunities that it needs to. So yes, that is a really important point.
Rob Johnston: There is a definition that the ITF and a number of organisations such as the European Automobile Manufacturers Association and the International Transport Forum at the OECD have worked to establish. It sets out five layers of automation. We believe that will be a useful reference point for looking at how to define what automation really means. In those five layers are different degrees of automation. The previous evidence alluded to that in some ways.
Rob Johnston: No, we believe that the Bill should be expanded to cover those five areas. If you look at technological development, it is likely that those layers will come to fruition in their current format.
Rob Johnston: Yes, it would. The layers run from driver assistance at the lowest level to full automation at the highest level, and everything in between.
Rob Johnston: I think that there is a question, which the Bill tries to deal with, on regulation. In order to accept the fully automated vehicle, you would have to accept a number of criteria around the algorithms that would do that, and they pose some questions. Essentially, the vehicle would need to be able to make choices between certain decisions. For example, if the vehicle was involved in an accident or there was a crash, it would need to have an algorithm that would define which course of action it took. I think that area really needs further regulation. In Germany, for example, they have established a body to deal with that: High-Tech Strategy. In September 2017, they came up with some guidance on how they believe these algorithms should be programmed, and that is a useful reference point.
I have Scott Mann and the Minister. Does anybody else want to ask this particular panel a question?
I have got Graham as well. I will take you next, Scott.
Just a simple yes or no.
Diana Holland: The potential is there, but it is not automatic unless a range of other things are followed up at the same time. It would be fantastic to find ways of developing this so that there is social inclusion for both rural areas and for disabled people, who are currently denied opportunities, but it has to be part of an overall approach to an integrated transport policy. Otherwise there is a danger that we just end up replicating congestion of one kind with another, with different insurance. However, there is a way of using this to develop a whole range of things, including much broader social inclusion.
Rob Johnston: I would add, as I did earlier, that if we are providing transport mechanisms, whatever they look like, for individuals who cannot drive for whatever reason, we need to provide a transport mechanism that allows the transport method to make decisions for them. That needs to be regulated and we need to be confident that the decisions being made by that vehicle, whatever type it is, are the right ones. That is determined by the algorithms and software behind it, so we need to have confidence that those are right. That is because you could potentially take vulnerable people and put them into a vehicle they are not in control of.
Diana Holland: Again, it does not have to have any impact on employment in terms of the two relatively minor areas that it could be argued that it covers; but the potential is there to enable a wholesale change to a different method, and ultimately saying that the professional driver no longer has a role. There are extremes in approaching this. We would say that it does not have to do away with employment, but plenty of estimates have shown that if it is introduced in one way, that is the effect it will have.
Our immediate concerns regarding the phrasing of the Bill are on the impact on those people currently employed, or under a range of contracts, and responsible for a vehicle, who would find themselves potentially liable in a way that we hope is not the intention. We really think that needs to be looked at to ensure that it does not encompass all kinds of people who we do not think should be liable in those circumstances. There are specific concerns around taxi drivers who own their own vehicles. There are issues around road haulage, where certain people are required to establish themselves as a limited company or to be self-employed to have jobs, but the definition bears questions. We need to ensure that we are not extending liability here beyond where it ought to be, when the operation is run and owned by a third party.
Rob Johnston: If I can briefly add to that answer, KPMG produced a report that said there are potentially 25,000 additional jobs directly working in the automation industry by 2030. A potential 320,000 jobs that could be created, but there is a caveat to that: Government policy is needed to address the growing skills gap, otherwise there is a risk of losing more than £50 billion in GDP per annum. Those are statistics provided by the transport systems Catapult.
Adrian Jones: Yes, I would certainly say that we would welcome the opportunity. While the date for roads full of fully automated vehicles is an unknown, as is the impact, our members already have concerns. In manufacturing, the apprentices needed are not engineering apprentices in the traditional sense; they are software engineer apprentices. In road transport, we have fitters and engineers who are up to their elbows in grease, but in just a few years’ time they will be up to their elbows in keyboards, iPads and screens, which is a completely different skillset.
We also need to recognise that there is concern about skills. As you know, Minister, there is a widespread acknowledgement of a driver shortage in the UK. You already know my views on that. Our members already have concerns that the technology is being used as a smokescreen in effect to say, “We can use this technology to address that skills shortage”, but it will not do that, because employers will see it as a way of reducing cost, rather than filling the skills gap.
One expert that I heard on the venerable Radio 4 was asked about the job shift of a bus driver when that bus was fully automated. The expert said, “Jobs will be created. There may be a café on the bus and they could work in the café.” That is not comparable work. Yes, it is a job, but going from a skilled position to working in a café—no disrespect to any café workers—is not maintaining a standard of living or the same income to that family or the Treasury. There has to be a real debate now, not only on the future, but on the impact that new technologies are having on the transport industry and workers today.
Diana Holland: I think the approach we see all too often is the race to the bottom that means that even those employers that want to invest are forced to undercut in order to win contracts. There is an opportunity here for Government to say that nobody can undercut on the basis of the standards we think should be set and operating in this industry. If we are approaching skill levels in that positive way, that can be extremely helpful, because it means we are saying that people are recognised for the skills they have, and having those skills will mean we get the kind of industry we want.
Adrian Jones: I am not sure if it would be included in this Bill. There are already regulations in force through the Traffic Commissioners’ office for operators who infringe on maintenance, for example. The key, for this Bill, is how the driver would know whether or not that vehicle is fit. At the moment, a driver is expected to carry out a daily check to ensure that the mechanical aspects of the vehicle are fit for road use. How can they check that the software has been updated appropriately, and who will be held responsible if it is not? The Bill does not cover that, and it would be helpful, certainly for drivers and for the confidence of other road users, if, when I see an automated vehicle on the road, I know that it has been properly updated and the vehicle has a professional driver or worker who has ensured that the updates have been made.
If there are no further questions, I will move on. I thank the witnesses for their evidence.
Examination of Witness
Robert Llewellyn gave evidence.
We will now hear oral evidence from Robert Llewellyn. We have until 11.25 am for this session. Can you introduce yourself for the record?
Robert Llewellyn: Hello. My name is Robert Llewellyn; I am a writer, TV presenter and electric vehicle driver.
Robert Llewellyn: It starts to go towards that. I am doing many public appearances to discuss the impact of electric vehicles. It is effectively a disruptive technology, in the same way as cell phones and the internet. It has elements of those disruptive aspects, which are never all positive. There are some positives, but there are definitely some negatives. One of the things that it highlights is the ownership model. That is certainly something that motor manufacturers are very focused on: the way we use cars at the moment.
It is the 90:90 dilemma; I have never heard anyone dispute that. At the moment, 90% of the cars we own are idle 90% of the time. When you look at it from that point of view, any other business or industry that kept 90% of its assets idle for 90% of the time would not be in business. It is a really difficult challenge, and I do not have an answer. One of the answers that is emerging, as you have just been hearing, is autonomous vehicles. There are so many complexities, as you have listed wonderfully in the Bill so far. When I started to read it, I got a bit of a fuzzy brain, but that is the actor side of me; it is not an enormous intellect.
The challenges that it raises are fascinating. I fuel my own cars with my own fuel, which I make in my house. That has never been possible before. It is conceivable that, if I lived in the right part of the world, I could have drilled down, extracted oil, built a small refinery and filled my car, but that is pushing it a bit. This technology allows you to do that, although not all year round and not 100% of the time. How do you legislate for that? How do you tax that fuel? All those things are thrown up in the air. It feels a bit wild west at the moment.
That is one aspect of it. The other aspect is the charging infrastructure. Anyone who has an electric car will talk to you about it for a year, because it is such an emerging area. When I first started driving electric cars in 2010, there was one rapid charger in the country. That belonged to Mitsubishi in Cirencester and you had to arrange to go and visit it, so it was like a day out to go down to Cirencester and use a rapid charger. For 90% of the time it did not work; all the instructions were in Japanese; and no one understood Japanese at Mitsubishi, so it was not very reliable.
However, now, if you are stupid enough—I have done it in the winter—you can drive from London to Edinburgh in a Nissan Leaf. It takes a long time, it is a miserable trip, and it is quicker on the train, but it can be done. I have driven all over the country in various electric cars, now relatively easily, so there has been a dramatic change in the infrastructure, but there are very few electric cars on the road. If you doubled the numbers overnight, there would be issues with that. I think 40% of the people in this country do not have somewhere off the street to park their car, so where do they charge them? I will not go on too long.
Robert Llewellyn: Sorry, yes, that was your question. There is one crucial thing that I think could be addressed. It has been addressed in other countries. Ireland and California are two places that I know about where there is one system for paying for electricity. Everyone who uses an electric car is happy to pay for the electricity, but the system is so complex. I could get the collection of cards out of my wallet that I need to be able to use all the chargers, and very often I do not have the specific card for that charger. In Ireland there is one system, an app that you have, and you can use any charger. It is operated by many different companies. They all get paid for it, but you just have one thing. A combination of either that or touch to pay should be addressed.
You can buy a bag of crisps with touch to pay, but you cannot buy electricity from a charger. I know there are complexities and legal difficulties and expense, but that would really make a huge difference. The most common complaint I hear is, “I haven’t got a wallet big enough to hold all the cards.” And you need membership and subscriptions. All that needs to go so that you literally go up to a charger, pay for the electricity you are using and move on. You do not have to join a club to use a Shell petrol pump. You just pay for it. That is a really essential thing.
Robert Llewellyn: That is a very good system by Ubitricity, a German company. My primary enthusiasm about it is that it is incredibly easy to use. You drive up to it and plug your wire in. The wire has a box that communicates and tells the company how much electricity you use. You plug the other end into your car and it starts charging. You do nothing. We need that frictionless ability to do that.
I cannot remember the figures, but there are many hundreds of thousands of suitable lampposts. One of the aspects of the technological change we are seeing is when a lamppost is converted to LED lights. It has extra juice—electricity—that you can take off it without blowing anything up. It does not need any other infrastructure changes. It is a very simple system. It requires lampposts that are on the kerb side of a pavement, which not all lampposts are, but there are certainly hundreds of thousands of them. They have fitted a great deal of them and they have been very popular.
Robert Llewellyn: That would be ideal. One of the other problems is that the technology is changing so fast. I recently drove over a strip of road just outside Paris that has an induction-charging strip set in it. I do not think that is going to happen, because I cannot imagine the cost of putting that in the M1—it would be in the billions—but these induction plates for static charging, so when you are parked the car starts charging, are quite common now. That technology is getting cheaper.
It is really difficult—I would feel nervous suggesting that anybody invest an enormous amount. There have been failures in public-invested charging points: they are in the wrong place, they break down, they are not maintained or they are not run by the company that set them up. There have been plenty of examples of that. This is a rapidly emerging technology that keeps changing. Take even the wire you use. Finally, a bit like phones, there is a standardised type 2 connector that goes in every socket and goes in every car, but even that was a mystery a while ago. I would have a certain reluctance in saying, “Yes. Make all councils install thousands of chargers,” because they might be the wrong ones in the wrong place.
An organic development is happening with private companies, including supermarkets, that are starting to put them in car parks. Shell is now putting rapid chargers in its forecourts. It is happening, but quite slowly. I think it is probably chicken and egging like that—so there are more cars, then more chargers, then more cars, then more chargers. I would not know how to suggest where to put them.
Robert Llewellyn: I think that is a really good idea. If there is one group of fuel suppliers that could probably afford it without too much stress, it is the garage chains. They seem quite keen to do it. I think they can sense a change in public attitudes, which is why Shell has gone ahead and has done what it is doing. I know BP is doing the same. I do not know about any other companies, but it makes sense. All I would beg them to do is to put in nice chairs, wi-fi and reasonable coffee, because you tend to be in the garage a bit longer with an electric car than you are with a petrol car.
Before I call the Minister, I have him, Graham Jones, Iain Stewart, Matt Western, Scott Mann and Matt Rodda indicating that they wish to ask questions. Are there any more? No. Well, you can do the maths as well as I can. Will Members be as brief as possible with their questions? And Robert, we really enjoy your eloquence and insight, but if you could be as pithy as possible in responding, that would be helpful.
Robert Llewellyn: Yes, I think so—I am trying to be pithy.
Robert Llewellyn: Yes, very much so. That has certainly been discussed a lot. If nothing else, like at a garage forecourt, if a row of charging points are under a canopy—say, at a motorway services or at a garage forecourt—with a specific kind of colouring to attract you to it, that would be nice. I do not know whether you can legislate for that, but it would be a great benefit so that you are not standing in the rain when you plug your car in.
I want to ask a particular question at the end about vehicle variations. Does the Bill accommodate what we will see in the future? I believe we will see different types of vehicle variation, because there will be electric vehicles instead of just the four-seater saloon car.
Robert Llewellyn: There are three things that would be wonderful. I am definitely not an expert, but when you have seen this you can see how popular it is: community electric car sharing/ownership/use. When those little systems organised by local communities appear, they are very popular with the local community. I have seen this in small towns rather than big cities.
Robert Llewellyn: Almost, yes. Also, they would have a dedicated place where you would park and charge them, so you would remove that problem. There are a lot of benefits to that.
The thing I have not seen in the Bill, which is a vitally important part of this, is vehicle-to-grid technology, which is appearing rapidly. It has an enormous impact, potentially, not on vehicles but on the grid. Say there were 3 million electric cars plugged in overnight, that would be a staggering amount of electricity—a very large power station’s worth of stored energy. You only need take a small amount from each vehicle. That technology is available now, not much in this country but it is certainly being used. I have been—I am trying to keep this pithy—to an office in Tokyo that is run by 100 Nissan Leafs that are plugged in outside. They do not use electricity from anywhere else. Those cars are discharging and charging all day, with a guaranteed amount for the owner to get home at night. So that technology already exists.
On fast charging, from my experience of driving many hundreds of thousands of miles in electric cars, slow charging is really good. Destination charging is really good. When you go to a car park and you are there for two hours topping up, it is not rapid charging, not “Gotta fill it in 10 seconds”. That, in a way, is a petrol or diesel mentality: “I’m driving a really long way. I need to fill it really fast”. You do do that, but way less than you might expect—way less. I use a rapid charger 15 or 20 times a year.
But if I can go to a car park where I can just plug the car in while I am in a meeting, or have gone to the movies or to a restaurant, and I add 20, 30 or 40 miles, that is an enormous benefit. Having more places where you can do that, more car parks with chargers fitted—that you ping your card on to pay for the electricity—would be a fantastic change. Those are emerging, and every time I can use one it is an enormous benefit. Two or three hours gives you 20 or 30 miles. You think, “That’s not very much”—well, it is 20 or 30 miles.
I think we have got the message.
Robert Llewellyn: Absolutely from legislation, yes. The system in California, which I am more familiar with, was chaotic. I do not know quite what happened in Ireland, but it was catastrophic. It was a simple bit of Government legislation from the Californian state legislature that insisted that there was one system, that you could use all public chargers. I believe it is a dongle rather than an app. That might have changed—I have not been there for a while—but it certainly was that.
Robert Llewellyn: That would be an amazing change, and I think it would ease in a lot of people who have not adopted electric cars: “How do I charge it?” “You just walk up there and it charges.” That would be a big change.
Robert Llewellyn: I was very pleased when I heard that announcement. Technology might overtake it. There is a strong argument for that among the evangelical electric vehicle users, from whom I try to stand one step back and be a little more objective. But it is such a hard thing to do. I have seen so many graphs to describe the uptake of new technologies and how this will be what happens with electric vehicles—the S-curve of adoption.
Our emotional relationship with cars is really complicated. It is deeper than our emotional relationship was with landline telephones or how television is viewed—all those things. It is more complex than that; I do not think it is quite as simple. I think you could be more ambitious. You could go with 2030, the technology is advancing so much.
The simple fact is that the car I have had the longest—a Nissan Leaf—has a 24kWh battery. There is now the new Nissan Leaf and the battery pack is exactly the same size and it is a 40kWh battery. That more than doubles the range of my very battered dirty old Nissan Leaf that I drove to the train station today. Sorry, no more piffle.
Robert Llewellyn: There is a whole other area of fascinating stuff going on with micro-grids and local community-owned generation. That is something that I am involved with in my village. I think it is actually in many ways easier to have an electric vehicle in a rural area—I live in one—because you have generally got, even if it is a muddy drive or field entrance, somewhere you can park the car off the road. Far more people in a rural area have that ability.
You also generally have a bit more space to install solar panels or wind turbines. There is certainly a lot of that activity happening on a community level, of people generating their own power—they own the assets that do that—and they also install electric car chargers. A farmer local to me who is putting 20kW of solar on his barn roof wants to open a café with car chargers. You would have to drive miles to go there—I do not know why anyone would—though he has some nice cows.
Robert Llewellyn: I feel more confident in answering the second part. When people do install destination chargers—the common term for it—they all notice an increase in time spent by individual customers, because they are there a bit longer, and repeat visitors. Convincing supermarkets that, if they put chargers in their car parks, they will get more customers is the argument that I always try to use.
Certainly, hotels and restaurants have noticed a marked increase of a specific type of customer, particularly if it is a high-end electric vehicle. If they put those chargers in, they appear on the map on the satnav and they get more business like that. That is an argument. I do not know whether you could legislate for that but that is certainly an argument in favour of doing it. As more electric vehicles appear, I feel that will kind of roll itself out in a way.
Robert Llewellyn: I would hope that there would be. It would be wonderful if there were encouragements and nudging pressure to say, “When you build this new supermarket with a car park, can you put in 40 car chargers? Not two or four down the far end but to have one whole side for electrical vehicle charging.” It is not that expensive to do low-cost top-up charges; that is not a big expense.
Robert Llewellyn: I am very uncomfortable about pressuring people in that sense. We should encourage them, certainly, but not pressure them, because of the result of the misinformation that we all suffered from. I had a diesel car, as did a lot of people. I think that is a really difficult area. I feel very unqualified to know how to do that. I work on encouragement and enthusiasm; I would not know how to instigate legislation that would insist on people buying electric cars.
If there are no further questions from Members, I thank the witness for his evidence.
Ordered, That further consideration be now adjourned. —(Andrew Stephenson.)
Adjourned till this day at Two o’clock.
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (Second sitting)
The Committee consisted of the following Members:
Chairs: Mr Adrian Bailey, † Sir Edward Leigh
† Argar, Edward (Charnwood) (Con)
† Brown, Alan (Kilmarnock and Loudoun) (SNP)
† Duffield, Rosie (Canterbury) (Lab)
† Efford, Clive (Eltham) (Lab)
† Foxcroft, Vicky (Lewisham, Deptford) (Lab)
† Hayes, Mr John (Minister for Transport Legislation and Maritime)
† Jones, Graham P. (Hyndburn) (Lab)
† Kerr, Stephen (Stirling) (Con)
† Knight, Sir Greg (East Yorkshire) (Con)
† Letwin, Sir Oliver (West Dorset) (Con)
† Mann, Scott (North Cornwall) (Con)
† Rodda, Matt (Reading East) (Lab)
† Stephenson, Andrew (Pendle) (Con)
† Stewart, Iain (Milton Keynes South) (Con)
† Tracey, Craig (North Warwickshire) (Con)
† Turner, Karl (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab)
† Western, Matt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab)
Farrah Bhatti, Mike Everett, Committee Clerks
† attended the Committee
Steve Nash, Chief Executive, Institute of the Motor Industry
Brian Madderson, Chairman, Petrol Retailers Association
Steve Gooding, Director, RAC Foundation
David Wong, Senior Technology and Innovation Manager, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
Robert Evans, Chief Executive Officer, Cenex, and Chair, UK Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Association
Suleman Alli, Director of Strategy, UK Power Networks
Marcus Stewart, Head of Energy Insights, National Grid
Quentin Willson, Journalist and TV Presenter
Stan Boland, Chief Executive Officer, FiveAI
Denis Naberezhnykh, Head of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles and Energy, Transport Research Laboratory
Public Bill Committee
Tuesday 31 October 2017
[Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]
Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
Examination of Witnesses
David Wong, Steve Gooding, Brian Madderson and Steve Nash gave evidence.
Welcome to our afternoon session. We will now hear oral evidence from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the RAC Foundation, the Petrol Retailers Association and the Institute of the Motor Industry. We have until 3 pm, when there may be votes. Would the witnesses please introduce themselves for the record?
Steve Nash: I am Steve Nash, chief executive of the Institute of the Motor Industry.
Brian Madderson: I am Brian Madderson, chairman of the Petrol Retailers Association, which is part of the Retail Motor Industry Federation.
Steve Gooding: I am Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation.
David Wong: I am David Wong, senior technology and innovation manager of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
Steve Nash: I will kick off, if you like. Right now, electric vehicles can cost anything up to 50% more to insure than comparable vehicles that are not electric. There are couple of reasons for that. An element of that is the cost of the vehicle, but a large part of it is the relative lack of skilled people to work on them. The insurers, naturally, load the premium because they expect to pay a higher cost to get the vehicles repaired, but provided the right mechanisms are in place to ensure a competitive market to service and maintain those cars, there is no reason they should be more expensive. In fact, if you take it to its logical conclusion, with sufficient fully autonomous cars on the road, accidents should go down.
Steve Gooding: May I echo that? It is a question of penetration—the number of autonomous vehicles out there. In the transition, when there are still a lot of conventional vehicles, someone in a driverless car might be a lot safer but will still face the risk of someone colliding with them. In the early stages, because of the technology built into the vehicle, that might be quite an expensive accident, which might put premiums up. In the longer term, however, as Steve says, as we see greater penetration, a lot of the human error that is the cause of crashes on the roads today will be ironed out by the technology.
David Wong: On the basis that 94% of all crashes involving a fatality are put down to human error, and that the modelling we published two years ago suggests that connected and autonomous vehicles are expected to save 2,500 lives and contribute to the avoidance of 25,000 serious crashes between 2014 and 2030, we certainly hope that with autonomous vehicles, insurance premiums will go down.
Steve Nash: I feel very strongly that there should be, on a number of counts. First, we have electricity at work legislation that was put in place at a time when electric vehicles were virtually non-existent, although it does refer to electric vehicles—believe it or not, it actually tells people to talk to my organisation about them. But it is patently obvious that there is an inconsistency in regulating people who work on mains electricity, which is 240 V, while being happy for anybody to work on a vehicle that could be between 600 V and 1,000 V if we include commercial vehicles. To be really clear and specific, I am not talking about general licensing. I am talking about regulating people to work on the high voltage elements of these cars, not to change the tyres or to do the mundane stuff. These vehicles are wholly different to internal combustion engine vehicles. In the fullness of time, and it will not be that long, quite large numbers of them will start to come out of warranty and find their way into the open market. Right now, only 1% of those who work on the maintenance of vehicles in the whole country are actually qualified to work on the high voltage electrics and they pretty much all work for franchised dealers. Putting a regulation in place would open up the market to the wider industry and provide a standard that everybody could recognise.
Steve Nash: Because it will not happen. I have been in the industry for 40 years. We have a great deal of support for this from huge independents such as Halfords, from a lot of manufacturers and a great many independent garages. When we talk about the independent sector, it is an indeterminate number, roughly 40,000 businesses, we estimate, but we do not know exactly who is working on cars, because they do not belong to a body. It could be anyone; there is nothing to stop anybody setting themselves up to service and repair these things tomorrow. It will only be when somebody kills themselves—there have been incidents outside this country already of people being killed or seriously electrocuted working on these things. Don’t get me wrong, they are perfectly safe to ride in and operate, but once you get under the skin, if you do not know what you are doing, you are in just as much danger as you ever would be playing around with mains electricity without knowing what you are doing, except that it is potentially more fatal, because it is direct current and it will not throw you off, it will just keep electrocuting you.
It would definitely help the market, because manufacturers will do what they have to do to sell the cars and make sure that their own people are competent, but it will not automatically happen. It is a coin-operated business outside the main dealers. We have investigated what happened when Corgi or Gas Safe were put into place, similarly with the electricity at work legislation. Very quickly you would undoubtedly have had a lot of practitioners who should not have been doing what they were doing back in those days, but very quickly the industry raises to that level and it becomes a competitive market again and you do not get unreasonable costs introduced. We believe that is the right thing to do here. It establishes a common currency across the industry for knowing what competence means.
It is not necessary for all the witnesses to answer all the questions. I am anxious as many colleagues as possible get in. I know the Minister is anxious for his voice to be heard, which we await with alacrity.
Steve Nash: We are going through what is the biggest change in the industry—
That is the trouble with two Steves. I do apologise.
Steve Gooding: I am sure Steve will come in in a second. Yes, the foundation has been very supportive of both aspects of the Bill before you today. Specifically on the electric vehicle side, we think that while there have been significant percentage increases in the take up of ultra-low emission vehicles, they are still a tiny fraction of the overall vehicle park. There are many reasons why the ordinary consumer could get confused by what is on offer to them with various different charging packages for how to pay; with big uncertainties about the availability of different charge plants and on-street charging. We think that if the Government are serious—and we know that you are—about rapidly increasing the take-up of ultra low emission vehicles, something needs to be done to make the world of those low emission vehicles easier for consumers.
The Bill takes the perspective of asking, “What are the things that may currently cause a consumer to think twice or just to think, ‘Not now’?” There is concern about range. Well, the auto companies are dealing with that, because the range of the vehicles is getting longer, but there is also concern about the complexity and ease of recharging, about whether a particular charge point will be available and working when someone pulls up, and about whether it will be the right sort for the vehicle that they have. If we are able to clarify those things and make them simpler, the market will be a lot more attractive.
David Wong: The best way to answer that question is to look at what is already available today in terms of automation. We do not have autonomous vehicles yet, just to be clear—we are unlikely to have autonomous vehicles until around 2020 or 2021—but what we do have is increasing levels of automation. The best example to quote is autonomous emergency braking, which is essentially level 1 or level 2 technology, using SAE International’s definition. AEB has already been shown to have contributed to the reduction in real-world rear-end crashes by 38%.
David Wong: I think it is more likely to be the other way around. That is, it will be a question not of whether the system rejects a request from the driver to hand control over to the vehicle, but of whether the system serves up the offer of automation to the driver, given the right and safe conditions.
David Wong: Correct, and I can give you an example. It is not autonomous yet, but it is level 3, which is very close to autonomous; this is the next step towards autonomy. Audi is the first vehicle manufacturer in the world to launch a level 3-capable vehicle. It launched it in the summer, and it will be available on the market, all being well, next year. Its system, which is called traffic jam pilot, is designed to operate at speeds of no more than 38 mph, on dual carriageways with clearly marked road signs as well as lane markings, and where the vehicle is hemmed in by other vehicles on the left and right, and front and back. If the system detects that all those conditions are met and the weather is sufficiently good for the operation of traffic jam pilot, it will offer the driver the option of giving the system control during that use case. Once one of those conditions is no longer in place, no longer valid—perhaps traffic has dispersed and the vehicle is able to travel at more than 38 mph—then the vehicle will ask the driver to take back control. So it is the system that will detect and serve up the offer; it is not the driver requesting.
Steve Gooding: I doubt whether we would need precisely that level of penetration. A report that we recently published—and thinking about how the Bill’s powers might be used if the House grants them—draws out the important point which is to think about the sort of trips that people actually make. For example, in large parts of London, in residential areas where there is no off-street parking, if we are to see a wide-scale move to plug-in electric vehicles, we would need to see quite a lot of roadside recharging capacity, because lots of people would be charging overnight, because that is what is most convenient for them. Elsewhere, if people are charging overnight at their homes and perhaps looking to top up the charge at their destination, it is probably more likely that that destination might be their place of work where there is off-street parking, or it might be a shopping centre or a multi-storey car park. So we are probably not talking about universal coverage but certainly more than we have today.
Quite how fast that needs to happen, I am afraid I could not give you a figure for now. All I can say is that at the moment there are various figures. Research by Addison Lee, for example, suggests that a very intense increase in on-street presence would be needed if we were to have the sort of ramp-up of vehicles that it would be willing to engage in. I would probably focus on making sure that the grant scheme for home charging carries on, so that we encourage more people to have the facility to charge at home. Then I would probably focus on motorway service areas, which will be very important for short and rapid top-up for people making a longer journey but who are possibly anxious about managing the whole journey there and back.
David Wong: If I can quickly echo what Steve said, it is no longer about the number of charge points, because we have around 14,000 in the UK at the moment, which is one of the highest numbers in Europe, if not the highest; it is about where these charge points are—being in the right place to serve particular needs, so it is not every charge point in every corner of a neighbourhood. First and foremost, what the Bill will provide is actually a step in the right direction, and so this is something we totally support in terms of the infrastructure. This calls for a co-ordinated approach involving the Government, the SMMT, the industry, vehicle manufacturers, charge point operators, energy companies and local authorities to come together, convened by Government of course, using the Government’s convening power, to determine and plot where the right charge points ought to be, depending on usage, the likely needs of people to charge and the type of charge points, because they might be fast chargers—rapid chargers—as Steve hinted.
David Wong: We would suggest a nationally co-ordinated approach.
Brian Madderson: I speak for 75% of the motorway service areas and the one thing that they are really against is any form of mandating, because they want the market to be able to choose what is the best form of charging at the time for them. This is in a great state of flux. Some of them have already entered into agreements that are more binding than perhaps they would have wished with the knowledge that they have just 12 months on. The mandating process seems to be all stick and no carrot. These motorway service areas fully recognise the need and, in fact, many now have both Tesla charging and other forms of charging, so they are working towards that but they think mandating is not appropriate in this case.
One of the other issues the motorway service areas have is that there does not seem to be joined-up government, which I think David was probably referring to. There are planning difficulties in getting car park extensions to put in extra parking bays for Tesla charging, for example. One of the things the Government should perhaps be mandating is not where the charging points go, but that where there are planning applications for charging points, local authorities must deal with them quickly, efficiently and sympathetically.
Steve Gooding: From a consumer perspective, I would have to say that we do not really know yet, but there is a broad spectrum of what might happen next. For example, there is a clear incentive for a fleet operator who is counting every penny to be thinking, “How could I reduce my costs of operation?” Whether that is a fleet of vans or trucks, the operator would be looking at automation as a way of, first, saving money, and secondly, sweating the asset of that truck for longer hours. In turn, we are seeing a huge amount of investment in the auto sector in vehicles for the private market.
If I were to bet my money, I would say that the guys who are counting every penny will probably be the first in—people running fleets and large numbers of vehicles—but some people are clearly very attracted to the thought of having driverless capability. That could be from time to time, or it could mean freedom and independence for people who are currently denied that by the fact that they cannot drive, and we have just been engaged in a report on what it means for people with disabilities.
David Wong: Correct. In the first instance, when I referred to 2020-21, I was referring to level 4—vehicles that will still have a steering wheel. That means under the right conditions, in the right use cases—for example, from junction to junction on a motorway—someone could let the system drive the vehicle, but could take back control outside that use case. If level 5, which is without a steering wheel, is not going to be as far off as 10 years, it is likely to be deployed in the first instance for first and last-mile journeys, perhaps even in pedestrianised areas—on pavements—as we have seen with some of the trials in Greenwich, as well as in Milton Keynes. As to when those level 5 vehicles without steering wheels are capable of performing end-to-end journeys—from my house in the village to my office in the city—that is anybody’s guess. That will probably be some time in the 2030s. It is quite complex.
David Wong: I suppose you could—
David Wong: Yes. In principle, one would not argue that a computer is less safe than a human being. Obviously, the capability of a human being to perceive and perform the driving of a car is limited and depends on the human being’s condition and the road conditions, as well as the environment in which the human being has been conditioned to perform the dynamic driving task. Lots of evidence has been published. The figures range from 90%; some are at 97%. We are taking the average figure, which is that 94% of all serious road accidents involving fatalities are caused by the human being. I mean that in the sense that it is not mechanical fault, lack of road markings or slippery roads, but the human being that caused the accident, perhaps by being inattentive or sometimes even perhaps by doing things that they are not supposed to do.
But even the slow-moving vehicle in Greenwich hit a plastic chair when it was put in front of it, did it not? We are going to see accidents during a journey where the vehicle is being driven by software. Those accidents are going to happen. The periods when a vehicle is not driven by a human are going to increase, so we are likely to see an increase in the number of accidents that are not human error. Is that right?
David Wong: We think that overall the number of accidents will fall, but if anything can be learned from one of the trailblazers of the self-driving car experiments and trials—Google—it is that the earliest accidents that they encountered a number of years ago when the car was being trialled were the result of the cars being rear-ended by manually driven vehicles. The learning from that was that Google had to tweak the algorithms to ensure that the self-driving vehicle—the computer—behaved a little bit more like the human being. They succeeded in doing that, and today you do not get so many of the rear-ending accidents.
Steve Nash: It is also important to say that these vehicles will be connected. When one experiences something, the knowledge is passed to all of them, which does not happen today.
David Wong: This is the classic trolley problem question that we get asked almost at every single conference that we attend—
David Wong: Not at this point, but at some point certainly. First, if you take a cue from the ethics commission report that was published in Germany just a few months ago, it suggested that in any case, human life should always be prioritised. If it is a decision between a human and non-human, obviously the human life would have to be prioritised. That is No. 1. Secondly, we should not expect the car to do anything massively different from how a human being would behave. The car should perform a minimal risk manoeuvre to stop and brake in such a way that the impact will be minimal. To expect the car to make an ethical decision to kill A or B is probably not the right approach. I would suggest that none of us has the divine power to decide who to kill. At the end of the day, someone who writes the algorithm will have to decide. If you insist that the car must decide, it is incumbent on the engineers to programme that into the algorithm.
David Wong: There would be a minimal risk manoeuvre, depending on the situation. There may be evasive action in such a way that it would be the safest possible option. If it needs to stop, it will brake and stop. May I point something out? I mentioned autonomous emergency braking. It has been demonstrated that the technology is improving all the time. Previously, autonomous emergency braking worked perfectly at 30 mph, which is urban speed, but it is becoming increasingly sophisticated. AEB can work well even at 50 mph. It would not surprise me if the technology improved in years to come to the stage where autonomous emergency braking could kick in at motorway speeds of 70 mph to prevent an accident or lessen the impact of an accident.
I have a growing list of people who want to ask questions, and I want to try to get everyone in. We want brisk questions and brisk answers. It is not necessary for every witness to answer every question.
Brian Madderson: They are all extremely interested in this new technology and we, in fact, are providing a route to market for many of the charging point suppliers. They come to our regional forums—Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales—and they appear in our market review book, so there is a thirst for knowledge.
The real problem with the Bill as it is currently written is that in mandating motorway service areas and, indeed, large fuel retailers there is a key missing ingredient, and that is the carrot I referred to before. There is funding for charging points at home, on the street, in the workplace and in other public areas but there is no funding available for the fuel retailers who would like to embrace this technology in order to provide a diverse range of refuelling options for their customers. It is the big rump of the medium to small-sized filling stations right across the country that will find this more difficult, because the investment decision at the present time is not something that banks would support. There is almost no money to come back on a perceived return-on-investment basis. So they are the ones who will be holding back the growth of charging points right across the country—it is not just city-centric.
Brian Madderson: It does have to be some form of funding, because if you go to your bank and say that you want to put in a charging point that might cost you a lot of money, you will immediately be asked, “What do you see as the return on investment? I’ve got to get my interest back.” They have no idea at the moment, because the market is in such a state of flux. New systems are coming on. I heard of one relatively recently called ZapGo. I do not know whether it is a big runner, but it is looking at putting storage tanks into a traditional forecourt with charging posts, and being able to meter out the electricity on a basis that I am told Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs would enjoy because you might be able to get fuel duty back on it. This is relatively new. There are all kinds of development in the marketplace, and I think it would be precipitous to ask them to invest 100% of the money now—they could not do it.
Brian Madderson: It can be up to £50,000 per instalment. What has been happening is that certain companies have gone along and said, “Look, we will take over that cost but we want from you two parking bays for 30 years on a lease basis.” If you are thinking about 30 years, that is a very long time. It precludes you, as the owner of that freehold property, from perhaps expanding your shop or putting up a new car wash— indeed, from perhaps even selling the property to someone else. So most of them have opted away from that style of investment.
Brian Madderson: First, I do not agree at all with any form of mandating because this is interventionist by the Government in a market that is so new and in such a state of flux that there should not be mandating. This is a perfect example of where market conditions should encourage investors to invest in the product that is right for them at the time. Mandating may make them make a false decision, which would prove very costly and certainly not be beneficial for the consumer.
Brian Madderson: Yes, I think it is good to have a market strategy, but you would certainly need to have proper funding available to not only small retailers but large retailers as well. By this, I mean the independents, certainly. The big oil companies today count for relatively few of the total number of filling stations—less than 15%—across the UK.
Twizy—that is it. I notice even on the continent, particularly in urban areas, we are getting smaller and smaller electric vehicles and cars driving around. Is the legislation adequate for the type and size of electric vehicle that might come on to the market? What changes do you see, for example? How will an automated vehicle work when you add a trailer to it or make some other changes to it? The shape, size and form of vehicles is probably going to change, as you are well aware, so will the legislation be adequate for those vehicles to be on the road when they are automated—of course, when they are operated by an individual manually, there is a human choice—and the automation is making choices?
Steve Gooding: I will start with a very short answer, as the Chairman seeks, which is no. But that is because this is a very immature market. We do not even have the vehicles in the marketplace yet. Having also driven a Twizy, which is great fun, I think the construction and use standards, based on a mechanical testing of roadworthiness, should be sufficient for most of the concerns you are voicing, but they are certainly not sufficient for guaranteeing the roadworthiness of the autonomous software systems; you are going to need something new for that.
When it comes to the size of the vehicle, again, their crash-worthiness, for example, needs to be tested in the circumstances in which the vehicle will be used. Maybe then there will need to be something in addition either to prevent or constrain what other purposes—whether it be towing a trailer, a caravan or whatever—are appropriate for that vehicle.
Steve Gooding: I would say a similar thing as to Mr Efford: as a consumer, if I am being invited either to travel in one of these vehicles because it is the equivalent of private hire, or to buy one, I expect to buy something that has been certified as safe for the use to which it is going to be put. If it is inappropriate for me to hitch a trailer to it and use it in autonomous mode, that had better be made clear to me at the point when I buy it.
Steve Nash: Absolutely, yes. There is probably more opportunity than threat from the new technologies. We are interested in ensuring that those skills develop in the right way. If you look at autonomous vehicles—I mentioned electric vehicles earlier—we only know as yet what manufacturers have said about their plans in the future. It may well be, for example, that when we get to level 5, or even level 4, a lot of those vehicles are not sold in the way that they are sold today. A new electric vehicle was launched a couple of weeks ago by a new brand called Polestar, which is owned by the same people who own Volvo. They say that the car will be sold on a subscription model, so it would remain within the possession of the manufacturer.
There is a lot of road to cover between now and then. Whoever is looking after those cars—I have already talked about electric cars, but when we get to autonomous cars as well—they will still have accidents. Things will drop on them and things will happen to them that are not caused by the car. When they are repaired, we have to be assured that they are repaired to a standard that returns them to exactly the same capability they had before the accident, which means we need people who are certifiably competent to do that. That is where we are interested in seeing some clarity.
We have cars with quite substantial autonomous capabilities already—Tesla is a good example—and I have seen second-hand examples of them that have gone beyond the dealer network. You have to wonder about the competence of the people who will work on that car—I am not saying that they are incompetent, but I do not know that they are competent. When someone next engages the autonomous capabilities of that car, will they do the things they are supposed to do? We cannot just leave that to chance. We have to be sure that there is some way of assuring ourselves about the people who work on them. This is not like the days when there was somebody who was “a bit handy”, as I think the phrase used to be, and you could give your car to them and they could look after it. This is a paradigm shift. We need to move with that and recognise that these cars, even though they have four wheels and look a bit like the cars that we have today, are entirely different. The skills base needs to be elevated to deal with them because they are an entirely different prospect.
Brian Madderson: The mandating of motorway service areas and large fuel retailers should be taken out at this stage because the market is just developing far too rapidly. We have even asked the Department for Transport what the definition of a large fuel retailer is, and it has said that it does not know yet and it will consult on that. Is it the size of the plot of a single one? Is it a multi-site organisation that might have filling stations all over the UK? Is it the amount of existing fossil fuel that a retailer is supplying? There is no definition, so I do not think it is reasonable or fair to mandate a large fuel retailer when you do not know what that is.
For similar reasons, I do not think that is fair and reasonable for motorway service areas either. There is just no money in it at the moment to justify huge investments, but there will be at some stage in the future and that is when the market will be able to say, “Let’s move on this now, and quickly too”. Hence my plea that the planning authorities are fully engaged to be able to allow effective planning applications as and when they are required for charge points.
Steve Gooding: Rather than changing something in the Bill, I think we would say that the powers—particularly in relation to electric vehicles—are drawn quite broadly. We would like to see how they are going to be used in succeeding regulations. We published some suggestions on how they might be crafted. There will obviously be some concerns—Brian’s perhaps first among them—about the implications for the operators of service areas, for local authorities and for householders. We would like to see the detail and to be confident—as I am sure we are—that the Department will get it right.
Brian Madderson: I would come back to that and say that the RAC’s report suggests that forecourts—filling stations, as they are at the moment—are probably one of the least best places to put a bank of charging points because of constrained space and alternative use, and because the few that we have today are all pretty busy selling diesel and petrol.
Steve Gooding: Apart from motorway service areas.
David Wong: Level 3.
David Wong: In the first place, the limiting conditions are such that the vehicle can only operate under the traffic jam pilot functionality at 38 mph, so that is a relatively low speed. If the driver is required to take back control at that low speed, Audi has said that there will be a minimum period of 10 seconds for the hand back to take place at 38 mph. This is completely different from some of the things that may have been heard in the press, where people were saying, “Oh, at 70 mph there is a three to five second hand back, it’s impossible to do that.” It is perhaps impossible. Audi will have a minimum hand back period of 10 seconds at 38 mph.
If the driver still fails to react within those 10 seconds, then a minimum risk manoeuvre will be performed whereby the car will slow down and grind to a halt in the lane safely, flashing the emergency indicators and strapping the seatbelt tight across the driver. The driver might have passed out, or may have become incapacitated. That is the assumption. In the intervening period, there would be a series of warnings within those 10 seconds including visual, acoustic and eventually haptic warnings. So there will be lots of measures that Audi has in fact built in. In any case it is travelling at 38 mph, so it is perfectly possible for the car to gradually grind to a halt in the lane with those measures in place.
Steve Gooding: Some of us are entirely unpersuaded that level 3 makes any sense at all. I accept all of the reassurances set out by David, but you should consider for a moment the Department for Transport’s own research showing that you are much more likely to kill someone when travelling at 30 mph than at 20 mph. I wonder if, at 38 mph, the window being created by Audi in which its system can operate is going to be too narrow. I am not sure that I have ever seen a dual carriageway in an urban area that is free-flowing with clear signs in this country. I think, personally, that we ought to say that level 3 is something that we do not want.
David Wong: We are informed that the policy intent behind the Bill is to do with the new insurance framework —the single insurer model framework—to cover level 4 and above. Insofar as that is reflected in the spirit and letter of the Bill, then that is adequate because it is at level four that the human being is—technically speaking—out of the loop, to use engineering parlance. The human being has surrendered control to the vehicle. At anything below level 4, the human being is still technically responsible and in the loop. So for these purposes the Bill is adequate.
David Wong: From an industry perspective it is always helpful if the levels are spelled out very clearly in the Bill. Our understanding is that it is rather unhelpful to spell out levels.
Steve Gooding indicated dissent.
You are shaking your head.
Steve Gooding: I would say that the definition in the Bill is adequate because of what David has said. It contemplates a world in which the vehicle can operate in autonomous mode without the driver being responsible. That is fine. It does not facilitate level three and that is fine too.
Brian Madderson: I have no problems with that.
Brian Madderson: Yes. It is definitely a good idea. We do that all round—on autogas, diesel, petrol, super-unleaded or whatever it might be—at the present time. The price is displayed, and I think it is a fine idea to do that with electric charging as well. It must be said, however, that since April 2016, when some of the charging point providers moved to pay as you go, the demand on motorway service areas for those chargers has dropped by 50%.
Brian Madderson: It is also about providing the carrot by way of funding. That is going to be the big spur to encourage firms, in a rapidly changing market, to take that investment decision and to ensure that such decisions are supported by their banks, lenders, shareholders and others. At the moment, you do not appear to be mandating hotels, leisure centres or workplaces, all of which are admirably fine locations for charging points; you just seem to be mandating motorway service areas and large fuel retailers, whatever that description means. We do not think that is fair, reasonable or necessary.
“an automated vehicle when driving itself”,
applies only to level 4? Why does it not apply to level 3?
Steve Gooding: I am not a parliamentary draftsman, so I would have to be reassured about this, but to me “when driving itself” means that the driver of the vehicle is not legally responsible for the vehicle; the vehicle is driving itself. That is what I intended to convey.
Thank you very much for your attendance today and for your answers. We are very grateful.
Examination of Witnesses
Marcus Stewart, Robert Evans and Suleman Alli gave evidence.
Robert Evans: I am Robert Evans. I am chief executive officer of Cenex and chair of the UK Electric Vehicle Supply Equipment Association.
Suleman Alli: Good afternoon. My name is Suleman Alli. I am director of strategy for UK Power Networks. We distribute electricity to 8.2 million homes and businesses in the east of England, London and the south-east.
Marcus Stewart: Hello. My name is Marcus Stewart. I am head of energy insights for National Grid. We are responsible for the balancing of the electricity and gas networks, and for managing all the energy across the UK.
Marcus Stewart: At the moment, the majority of people who own electric vehicles charge them at home, but there is a limit to how many houses have off-street parking. About 43% of properties do not have access to off-street parking, therefore other forms of charging facilities need to be available. They could be a mixture of charging types at destinations, workplaces, supermarkets, and so on.
From the evidence that we have gathered when we have talked to and interviewed people, key locations on the motorway and strategic network are seen as key enablers for the roll-out of electric vehicles and will help to remove some of the concerns around range anxiety which is seen as one of the main barriers to the take-up of electric vehicles at the moment. Charging and plus charging in particular at key locations across the country will facilitate the roll-out. If you do not have that, it is likely that the roll-out will be slower.
Suleman Alli: I support that. I would say that there is going to be a paradigm shift. It is a bit like when we used to get water from a well and we now get it from a tap in our home. In the same way, I do not think that petrol forecourts will be the only place where we will recharge our vehicles in the future. In our engagement with the marketplace, we are seeing major supermarkets looking at how they can offer fast charging to be a key differentiator for their customers. We are seeing hotels considering the same and local authorities looking to explore how on-street charging can be part of the solution. Based on the engagement we have done, I believe that it will be a much more diversified charging environment: it will not just be petrol forecourts.
Robert Evans: We have members who are very interested to install charge points at these locations. They see them as locations where there will be high utilisation rate and a good economic case for those charge points to be used. We are also talking here about an insurance policy—it is not a mandating per se. If the market does not deliver, the Act gives Government the ability to step in. It is not by definition a mandating until you pass additional legislation.
The members are very interested in installing in these locations, but they are other people’s land. Part of the issue here is the ability to encourage landowners to install charge points at their locations. In some cases it is a fuel supplier, in other cases it is one of the three main companies that operate motorway service areas. You have to recognise that there is a desire to install in those locations, but you cannot put your asset on someone else’s land.
Sitting suspended for a Division in the House.
We are now quorate. Sir Oliver Letwin asked a question, which you of course have remembered exactly, and you may now answer it.
Robert Evans: I think your question related to the aspect of there not being so many people with off-road parking, so how do you make provision available for them? Certainly in this city, in London, that is an issue. It is also an issue in many cities across the UK. The availability of charging infrastructure in supermarkets, shopping areas in market towns and leisure facilities is certainly helpful, but obviously if you do not have home parking you are at a disadvantage compared with other motorists. So it is partially self-selecting, in a way, but certainly in London and other locations if you have a certain amount of public infrastructure it will help those people who want to buy an EV to have one.
Robert Evans: From our perspective, no, we have not. We know that UK Power Networks have done extensive study work in their projects, and we know from dialogue with Western Power Distribution that they have also looked at the same. Some of the councils here in London—for example, Hammersmith has a scheme that is looking to leverage the street lighting—
Will you speak up a bit, please?
Robert Evans: Sorry. Hammersmith has a scheme that is looking to leverage the street lighting in order to provide charging for residents on the street. Part of that is largely around civil works and some of it is around the electrical works. The DNOs will be able to advise in these cases whether the low-voltage network needs reinforcing, but otherwise it is predominantly a matter of civils and equipment. Members are developing charge points, and have charge points, that can charge from street lighting, albeit that the power supply to that lighting is limited.
Suleman Alli: Yes. It is very difficult to give you a definitive answer on the exact cost. The reason why it is so difficult to do that is that in order to come up with a cost, you have to understand the impact that it is going to have on the network. To understand the impact on the network, you have to understand when people are likely to charge, where they are likely to charge, the amount they are going to charge and the type of charger they are going to use. There are multiple permutations of that.
The only approach that we thought was appropriate to consider was to look at scenarios. Our peak demand across our three networks is around 15 GW. We think that up to 2030, when we might have between 1.2 million and 2 million vehicles, their peak demand could be between 2 GW and 5 GW—so between 10% and 30%. If you think of our track record over the last five years, we have connected 5 GW of distributed generation on our grid. That is equivalent to one and a half Hinkley Point Cs, without much fuss or bother. We have until about 2030 to work out how we are going to do this. My view would be that we are not complacent, but we are confident that we are going to come up with some solutions.
We think the Bill as it is currently presented provides us with a lot of help. In order for us to understand the impact, you need the visibility and the smart charging functionality. If you have the smart charging functionality combined with smart tariffs, you can start actually to deliver the infrastructure at lowest cost. I am sorry that I do not have an exact number for you. Anyway, if I did give you a number, it would 100% be wrong—but we are doing a lot of modelling and work to understand what the permutations are.
Suleman Alli: That is a really exciting area of development at the moment. We are looking at it. As part of the Innovate UK funding, we are going to be supporting five EV trials, one of which is including a vehicle to be trialled with Nissan.
If you look at where distributed generation is connected in the UK today, it has mainly been at grid scale. A lot of our research on storage has been focused on grid-scale storage. We commissioned the largest battery in the UK at the time, 6 MW or 10 MWh, and we are very clear that storage can help peak shaving for the distribution networks at grid scale. We think that same concept can be applied to vehicles, but the trials need to take place for us to understand it fully. That is happening at the moment.
Suleman Alli: I believe within the next 12 to 24 months. We are looking abroad as well at other countries to see how we can generate learnings from those trials. Certainly, in the next 24 months we will start to see concrete evidence that we could present.
Robert Evans: Automated vehicles are not strictly my area of operation, so I find that that is something that I cannot strictly answer.
Marcus Stewart: In some of the work that we have done when we have projected forward and looked at various energy scenarios, we see automated vehicles as having an impact on total energy usage. More automated vehicles, and clarity around the question, will allow different business models to come forward. Car sharing is more likely as part of that, and that will reduce the overall demand on the energy system, but we believe that it is still quite a long way out—maybe 2030-plus—before we start seeing any significant impact from that.
Robert Evans: Yes, absolutely. This is part of a process that the Government have played a key role in seeding—the introduction of charging in key locations and providing support to Plugged-in Places and now to the Go Ultra Low cities and others, to create exemplar projects and to encourage the roll-out of infrastructure. Making that infrastructure visible is a key part of reassuring people that owning an electric vehicle is a good thing. Being able to have a home charger, with support from the Government, that meets very high technical standards is also really important, so that people are not charging their electric vehicle from an extension cable or similar on a three-pin plug, which we would not advise.
The Government have played a very important part in dialogue with industry about the process of seeding. Now we are in a situation where we have more than 100,000 electric vehicles on the road, and the car industry is committing to introduce the vehicles, and so the roll-out of infrastructure is occurring largely with market forces, in the sense that businesses and locations are realising that they need to have charging as part of their offer. If it is a tourist destination, it wants to have electric vehicle drivers come to its location rather than another one, and so on.
We have good momentum, but it is still really important that where there is workplace charging, for example, we get conversion of people who work at that location because they see that there is charging that they could use, they start to think and then they buy electric vehicles. We thoroughly commend the Government’s workplace scheme, because we can see the catalytic effect that it is having.
Robert Evans: Skills is one of those challenging areas where we have a plethora of schemes. I was told that there are currently about 220 different skills initiatives for the motor industry. The challenge is not necessarily to create another skills initiative, but to work out how best to blend the relevant content into existing initiatives. Certainly on the garage side of the motor industry, greater skills or a spreading of skills for mechanics and engineers in terms of them being familiar with and able to operate on electric vehicles would be helpful. There is a general skills shortage in the motor industry, and that is something that training and development at a local level can assist.
Marcus Stewart: One of the key things that affects the impact on the grid is people charging their cars. Smart charging is absolutely key to mitigating that. I will give you some examples from the work that we have published. We published our “Future Energy Scenarios” report in July. In a high-growth scenario that aligns with the Government’s target to ban sales of diesel and petrol engines in 2040, we would expect to see around 9 million electric vehicles in 2030. That would add something like 17% to peak demand, which occurs on a Monday or Tuesday evening in the winter, if there was not smart charging. If there was smart charging and people responded to that through time of use tariffs or other incentives, that could be reduced to around 6%. How people charge and how they are incentivised to do it has a real impact.
At the moment, the technology exists—the charging posts that have been put in have that technology—and we support the measures in the Bill to ensure that all charging points have that capability, which would make a significant difference to how easily electric vehicles are accommodated by the network nationally and locally. Smart charging is absolutely key, and we support the approach in the Bill.
Marcus Stewart: I believe that the industry, in terms of energy suppliers, will offer smart tariffs. We have already seen that; OVO has published a proposed smart tariff that will actually support vehicle-to-grid when that becomes available. The market is likely to respond. There are also changes in the electricity market around billing for half-hourly meter reconciliation, which will drive the supplier to optimise their portfolio and to offer similar types of tariff. The mechanisms are there to make that happen. At the moment there are only 100,000 to 120,000 electric vehicles, so there is a very small impact, but when we get to millions of cars, we need to have that smart charging capability. People in the market are seeing that opportunity already and want to participate in that. Having the framework and rules that facilitate that and mandate the technology and infrastructure will go a long way to facilitating that.
Robert Evans: I would just like to add that on the one hand I am very reassured by my colleague’s contribution, which recognises that this is a market opportunity and that we have members who are very keen to provide the charging technology and the market mechanisms that would allow a motorist to make their electric energy—their battery—available, so that they do not charge at night, but they can provide power back to the grid when it is needed and manage those smart services.
We are concerned about mandating a specific technology. There is a context around the Bill that says it will mandate a certain technology or approach. We would like to see a recognition of the need to create a market rather than have a situation where, for example, a DNO can effectively turn off charging for somebody because they feel that that is necessary under certain conditions without involving the motorist or without market mechanisms coming in in the first place. We are particularly keen that this paves the way for a market-based approach. We welcome variable tariffs and vehicle-to-grid technology and we see the storage of electric vehicles as exactly what you need in an energy system with a high element of intermittency, as we add more and more renewables. The storage element is going to be a lot more valuable and there need to be market mechanisms to unlock that, rather than a mandated approach that is purely a situation where someone can turn off as they choose to, without the motorist or business—
Thank you very much. Alan Brown.
Marcus Stewart: We see smart charging for electric vehicles as a key starting point for that. You can get smart technology in your home today—smart thermostats, for example. Commercial premises have smart air conditioning and smart lighting that help to balance their load and can provide services back to the grid today. An electric car will be the biggest asset in the home that uses energy, unless you convert to heat as well, and that will have a big impact on the system. Making that smart at the start is the right thing to do.
Suleman Alli: It is a bit like the concept of offset mortgages in the financial services sector, where you pay your salary into an account and that offsets against the mortgage interest you pay. We are starting to see a new business model emerge where people say, “We can give you price certainty or reduced energy bills if you plug your vehicle in and allow us to provide services to the wider network operators or the system operators.”
I think the market will innovate and start to provide those services. We are already seeing that in the internet market, for example. Some of the trials we are doing will look exactly at that area. It is intuitive for us to think that if you have an electric vehicle you are going to go home and plug it in straightaway. The research that we have undertaken shows there is a diversity. When you have a large population of EVs, not everybody goes home and charges at the same time. In fact, we have seen about 30% of the impact materialise—of the capacity of charge that has been installed. There is an element of diversity that we incorporate into our planning that is based on evidence from the trials we have undertaken.
Marcus Stewart: I could talk about how we would do that. The primary reason to do it is to understand what network capacity expansions and reinforcements are needed on a national level. We will have different assumptions for different locations, where we have evidence. For example, there may be clustering in cities that we will make assumptions around. I imagine that the DNOs will look at similar things for their networks as well. We look at it on a spatial basis; it is not just a single-number basis.
Suleman Alli: What we are looking to do, particularly with electric vehicles, because there is a lot of data available out there, is try to apply much more advanced analytic techniques. For example, how can we marry up Land Registry data, which gives an indication of people who might have driveways, together with Acorn data about people who might be more able to buy an electric vehicle, together with data on charge points, in order to get a better and more granular view of our network? That is what we are doing at the moment to improve our planning.
Thank you. We have a lengthening list, so let us have one question and one answer.
Robert Evans: There are standards. There has been a difference between a Japanese product coming to a Japanese standard versus a European product coming to a European standard. Charge points typically have several connectors to accommodate different vehicles. That has been the simple solution.
Robert Evans: I do not know that we in the UK can necessarily say that this is the charger that is required for the global motor industry to produce. In the past, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles has set grant funding regimes that encourage particular types of charger because they are better for safety and for the motorists’ general use. That is to be commended.
Marcus Stewart: The high voltage network does mirror parts of the motorway network, but not all of it. There will be locations where there is a clear opportunity to build a connection for high voltage to supply charging, and there will be other locations where it is just not that simple. It has to be looked at on a case-by-case basis. Some of the options around that are maybe connecting at a lower voltage tier but using onsite storage, so you are not taking too much stress from the grid in one go. You are managing exactly the same as a petrol station does today, where it fills up a tank of petrol under the ground and feeds it to the cars as they need it.
We have talked to different developers and people who are looking at those kinds of options, and we describe it as a sort of mosaic of different charging routes out there. One of them could be high voltage input, with 350 kV of charging, backed up with a megawatt-scale battery to minimise the connection to the grid and that impact.
Marcus Stewart: From a national grid point of view, my role is to balance the network and ensure that the energy is balanced. We have a transmission owner part that would own the high voltage network, and certainly the element up to a connection. Anything beyond the connection is available for third party competition. Any service provider could put that in. A deregulated version of the National Grid or another third party could put that in. Our primary role is the reinforcement element upstream to support that.
Marcus Stewart: I think it would have some merits. I am not sure whether it needs to be mandated or not.
Marcus Stewart: It certainly makes sense to look at where there is good capability on the local or national network, and to consider that in respect of good accessibility for people; for them to be able to come in, connect and charge up their cars. I would expect those to be offering the early take-up points. Effectively there would be a least cost route to getting fast charging points delivered, in particular. A number of parties would have to come together and look at those opportunities: the National Grid, local network operators, charge point owners, service station owners and people like that. That would make sense.
Robert Evans: The answer is no. We are not doing enough.