Drone CC0 Public Domain/Pixabay

Photo: Dr Schwanen (left) and Dr Hopkins (right) deliver presentations to the workshop of freight industry specialists.

TSU Director Dr Tim Schwanen and Research Fellow Dr Debbie Hopkins begin new research, exploring energy implications of automation and 'smart' freight.

As part of this new research with the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED), and in response to the HM Government's recent Industrial Strategy Green Paper, the TSU hosted an industry workshop in London in March 2017, bringing together a wide-range of stakeholders to explore the role that automation and robotics might play in the freight industry in the UK.

The Industrial Strategy Green Paper specifically speaks of robotics and artificial intelligence (including connected and autonomous vehicles and drones), as a key area of interest with fast growing and potentially large global market, and for which the UK has capabilities to meet market needs. The UK Government also argue that there are significant social and economic benefits of automation technologies, and that government support will aid their emergence and diffusion.

The workshop was designed around four themes: expectations, desirability, diffusion and the UK's role in the global market. The afternoon was chaired by Jenny Bird (CIED) and was designed around short presentations from Tim and Debbie, followed by activities to uncover the participants' perceptions.

The workshop highlighted the diversity in perceptions across stakeholder groups on the development and uptake of automated technologies by the freight industry. The importance of public, real-world trials, and suitable policy/ regulation was stressed by participants, particularly a long-term, cross-party commitment to automated technologies. Partnerships with industry were also noted as critical to ensure buy-in, upskilling, and successful integration to the complex supply chain.

The findings from the workshop will inform a submission to the Industrial Strategy Green Paper public consultation, which closes later this month. The workshop also signals the beginning of a period of fieldwork for the CIED project on the 'energy implications of automated and smart freight mobility'.