You have not accepted cookies yet

This content is blocked. Please accept marketing cookies. You can do this here.

EP3 Podcast Hero with logo

3: Future Mobility


You have not accepted cookies yet

This content blocked. Please accept marketing cookies. You can do this here.

Humans vs robots. What is the role of humans in the future of driving?

Driverless cars are on their way. Are we ready for them? In this episode we take a deep dive in to this emerging technology, exploring what people really think and how we can cut through the buzzwords to understand the impact on people and communities. We ask, is this really a good thing?

Our guests are three people shaping the path for autonomous vehicles, Natalie Sauber from Arcadis UK, Luke Rust from Immense Simulations and Kat Hanna from Lendlease. Emma Nelson, freelance radio and TV presenter and reporter, hosts the conversation, examining whether driverless cars mean transport for all and looking at what our cities need to do to get ready for them.

Listen & Subscribe

Long Story Short

Listen & Subscribe

See all episodes
Natalie Sauber

Connect with Natalie Sauber for more information & questions.

Director, Industrial Manufacturing


Emma Nelson [00:00:06]
Hello and welcome to Long Story Short, the future cities podcast from Arcadis UK, in which we explore what lies ahead for our cities and the people who live, move, work, and play in them. I'm Emma Nelson. And coming up in this episode..

Luke Rust [00:00:23]
A lot of focus for us is actually being able to interact with public transport services.

Kat Hanna [00:00:27]
How can we sync those up to make sure that people are getting access to the cities? Challenging these companies to articulate what their benefits are going to be shouldn't be seen as necessarily being anti-innovation.

Emma Nelson [00:00:37]
Driverless cars are on their way. Are you ready for them?

Citizen [00:00:41]
No not a car. I don't think so.

Citizen [00:00:43]
I'd be fine with that if it is tested properly. A lot of planes and trains we get in nowadays are already automated.

Emma Nelson [00:00:50]
My guests are three people shaping the path of autonomous vehicles: Natalie Sauber from Arcadis, Luke Rust from Immense Simulations, and Kat Hannah from Lendlease, will examine whether driverless cars will mean transport for all. And look at what our cities need to do to get ready for them. So, clear the roads and climb in. That's all ahead on Long Story Short, the future cities podcast from Arcadis UK. And a very warm welcome to today's show. Joining me today.

Natalie Sauber [00:01:21]
Hi my name is Natalie Sauber and I'm the market intelligence and mobility solutions lead for Arcadis.

Luke Rust [00:01:27]
My name's Luke Rust and I'm head of commercial development at Immense Simulations, deploying autonomous vehicles in London.

Kat Hanna [00:01:33]
I'm Kat Hannah from Lendlease and I'm working on the masterplan for the development of Euston Station.

Emma Nelson [00:01:38]
And how did everybody get here today? Natalie.

Natalie Sauber [00:01:40]
It was actually a combination of walking and taking the bus.

Emma Nelson [00:01:43]
And would you have preferred to have been brought here in a driverless car?

Natalie Sauber [00:01:46]
You know what, because it's in London potentially I would have stuck to actually walking and taking the bus because it is still faster.

Emma Nelson [00:01:52]
Okay. Luke?

Luke Rust [00:01:54]
A combination of walking and taking the tube.

Kat Hanna [00:01:56]
Oh I cycled, and I'd probably pick cycling because it was sunny for once this morning.

Emma Nelson [00:02:01]
So everybody here would have been happy with their method of travel and probably wouldn't have jumped in a driverless car had it been available. Well that's a good start on a programme dedicated to the future of autonomous vehicles! We've asked some people how they thought about hopping into a driverless car anytime soon.

Citizen [00:02:17]
Initial thought is quite scary. I don't drive that much but maybe in central London it wouldn't be scary.

Citizen [00:02:27]
I'd be fine with that if is tested properly. A lot of planes and trains we get in nowadays are already automated.

Citizen [00:02:32]
Ok I totally understand they're used already, like planes have automatic pilot and all that, but no, I don't think so.

Emma Nelson [00:02:40]
Well people still seem to think it's a pretty distant prospect here in the United Kingdom, but driverless cars or CAVs (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles) are already being trialed in the form of delivery vans in China and right here on the roads in Milton Keynes, Cambridge, and Oxford. Luke, you're heavily involved in bringing driverless cars to the streets of London very soon.

Luke Rust [00:03:01]
Yes indeed. So, we're supporting a programme called Endeavour with Addison Lee and Oxbotica and trialing the tests of passenger services in Greenwich across the next couple of years with the hope that that becomes a commercial service from 2021.

Emma Nelson [00:03:16]
Natalie, how excited should we be about driverless cars?

Natalie Sauber [00:03:20]
Well, personally I'm very excited about them. There's lots of different opportunities coming our way. But of course, we also have to be realistic about expectation when it comes to the adoption of this technology. We've seen already quite a few driverless cars on the road being tested but none of them have yet been fully compatible with engaging with either pedestrians or the wider environment around them.

Emma Nelson [00:03:41]
And would you agree with that Kat, that we are not quite up to speed yet with them?

Kat Hanna [00:03:45]
The question obviously asked in that Vox pop was about how people would feel being in a car, but you know with someone whose job it is to think about ‘place’ they also might think 'well how would you feel being a pedestrian in an area that is filled with driverless cars?' How would you feel cycling or, actually, how would we potentially feel if we were redesigning some of our streets to accommodate these vehicles? And I think they're the types of questions that we really should be looking at as well as just to drive for experience.

Emma Nelson [00:04:09]
We have to set these cars within an incredibly busy environment don't we, Luke? I mean how are you figuring that out in Greenwich?

Luke Rust [00:04:17]
I think it's going to be a staged approach. Initially we're taking a fixed route service where we will have areas that we can use to test that and slowly start to integrate with the transport services. A lot of focus for us is actually figuring out to integrate with the public transport services. How can we sync those up to make sure that people are getting access to the cities? But it will be a gradual step-by-step process and making sure that they are visible to other users on the road.

Emma Nelson [00:04:40]
And ultimately Natalie, this should in theory mean that everybody can get about whether you're disabled, or drunk, or can't get insurance. This is, they say, transport for all.

Natalie Sauber [00:04:52]
Does it mean it will be fully accessible from day one for everyone? No of course not. Let's have a look at the smartphones. In the beginning the adoption rate was rather slow and we didn't really know that we wanted them until we pretty much got them, and I think autonomous vehicles are fairly similar to that adoption rate as well.

Kat Hanna [00:05:07]
Can I pick up on that idea that we don't really realize we want them until we're given them. I think the parallel with smartphones though is an interesting one because actually what we are potentially talking about here is additional vehicles on the road, so to use a parallel with something like ridesharing or Uber... You know, I think most people agree that it's a brilliant service, it's incredibly convenient. But actually, what a lot of these services have done is add additional vehicles. So yes, it could be transport for all but there is a chance that by creating transport for all we're actually creating more vehicles on the road and more congestion, resulting in inefficiency rather than an improved experience about how we move around our cities.

Emma Nelson [00:05:45]
Luke, you're creating problems as well as solving them.

Luke Rust [00:05:48]
Maybe so. Although, you know, I think we need to apply the business models as well around them. It’s not purely the technology. Ridesharing is a real opportunity to take vehicles off the streets. We still need to encourage mass transit, you know, that might be a really early use case for autonomy as in autonomous buses. I think there's a really good opportunity for them in London. We need to be encouraging more people to get on the larger mass transit services.

Emma Nelson [00:06:13]
There has been, Luke, this rather cynical suggestion that when the manufacturers come along and say we can help blind people get from A to B, that this is one of the first times that the blind pedestrian or the blind traveler has actually been fully factored into a marketing campaign.

Luke Rust [00:06:28]
Indeed. And with Addison Lee, their hope on this is that they will always have a person in the car to support blind people. Other travelers, people with baggage, people with kids, you know yes, they will be able to provide autonomous vehicles but you'll always have that support function with them to provide the level of service that is associated with a company like Addison Lee.

Kat Hanna [00:06:50]
But does this not then raise the question ‘well actually what is the problem that the autonomous vehicle is attempting to solve?’ You also drew the parallel with how important is we have mass transit especially in cities like London where you do need to move a lot of people often in quite short windows of time if you think of things like rush hour, or again you mentioned the use of driverless buses, but actually what would be the benefit of that. And I think most people feel actually we only have to look to how difficult it's been to, for example, remove train guards on trains and what the resistance has been to that. So why do we necessarily expect it would be better or different or desirable for buses?

Luke Rust [00:07:25]
Yeah and you know the taxi services are going to be difficult to remove the people from, most of those vehicles as well are going to face a lot of competition. You know, there is a lot of pressure to not go autonomous on a lot of these services, but the commercials do stack up for fleet operators to pull the humans out and provide a better level of service from having autonomous vehicles.

Emma Nelson [00:07:45]
You're with Long Story Short, the future cities podcast from Arcadis UK. I'm Emma Nelson, and with me are Natalie Sauber from Arcadis, Luke Rust from Immense Solutions and Kat Hannah from Lendlease.

Emma Nelson [00:07:58]
Natalie, pulling people out and giving us better service. What do you think of that?

Natalie Sauber [00:08:05]
It's a good idea and we currently live in a whatever, whenever, wherever type of environment where we want everything and fast delivery to us. And I think that's really what it comes down to. It's now down to governments, the companies both private and public, to make that happen in a more sustainable, in the most accessible way, by using technology and other kinds of new market entries to really make that happen.

Luke Rust [00:08:29]
We ran a study in Greenwich a couple of years ago called MERGE. And that really tried to balance the focus for public and private entities entering this space. You know, we were trying to marry up the KPIs (key performance indicators) for the city as well as the fleet operators and see if we could find a city compatible, commercially viable rideshare service. And it was very, very tough to get that balance right.

Emma Nelson [00:08:51]
So there's one thing that I'm getting from all three of you which was not perhaps what I expected. The emphasis here seems to be on the commercial impact. What do you think of that?

Kat Hanna [00:09:00]
I mean, I think that's an interesting way of thinking about it and I'd maybe slightly challenge this idea that one thing the government or regulators should be doing is addressing this fact that as individuals we're very keen to have this. You know, 'I want what I want. I want it now I want it delivered to me instantly. I want to be able to go wherever I can go with minimum effort minimum friction.' There are trade-offs to be had with that. You know you can do all these things to make the situation better for the individual. But actually, again, you can do that when it comes to things like mass transit because we're talking about finite space or we're also talking about people that are potentially going to be excluded from some of those options as well. So, I think looking to the example of government here, this mentality of having everything instantaneously getting everywhere incredibly quickly and incredibly cheaply actually is not sustainable for everyone. And so it then comes down for how can we manage expectations, how can we nudge behaviour and how can we get people thinking about the wider impacts of their decisions not just on themselves and their own time but on the city as a whole.

Natalie Sauber [00:09:59]
Very good point. And I believe what's really important for us here is at the moment is that the way that it's been set up it doesn't necessarily work. There's loads of cons on that like increasing global warming pollution and also obviously more people and cars on the road, but on the other hand we should really look at it from different angles. We need to evaluate what's been happening in the past and how we can basically then make improvements towards the future. I think with the trial and error situation right now where we're trailing lots and lots of different things and trying to see which one sticks, which one gets accepted by the public, which one gets the funding from different companies and which one really allows us to basically move forward.

Emma Nelson [00:10:34]
Well one thing that we really do need to address is whether the people who are going to be sitting in these driverless cars and the people who are walking around them actually trust them on our roads. Who makes sure that they're safe and ready for us? Well we've heard from one woman who's working with Arcadis to make sure that our roads are ready.

Kirsty Lloyd-Dukes [00:10:51]
Hello, I'm Kirsty Lloyd-Dukes and I'm the CEO of a Latent Logic, and we work on using state of the art artificial intelligence to test self-driving cars and prove that they're safe. It's just not safe to put a piece of software that hasn't been fully tested onto the road and hope it makes the right decisions. You just don't know if it will make the right decisions or not. So, what we try and do is find a safer way of testing a self-driving car and that's through simulation. So, we build virtual worlds that look the behave just like the real world, but they're totally virtual. And that means they're completely safe. And if something goes wrong in the simulation it doesn't really matter. Ninety percent of the accidents that are caused by humans today are from human error. And a lot of those are down to preventable things which self-driving cars can avoid doing. Undoubtedly there's a lot of work to do and more work that needs to happen to help self-driving cars to be able to predict what humans are going to do. I do think there is a lot of work we can do to engage with members of the public which is, you know, you and I as well, right? To help people understand what self-driving cars can bring for them but also to get people's feedback on actually what would make you confident that a self-driving car is safe? What kind of driving test do you think we should be putting self-driving cars through? And I hope through that kind of public engagement like we're doing on OmniCAV that we might be able to start changing people's perceptions.

Emma Nelson [00:12:14]
That was Kirsty Lloyd-Dukes from Latent Logic, testing driverless cars in Oxfordshire, working with Arcadis. Luke, there's an awful lot there about the amount of reassurance that people want to know that these vehicles are safe for everybody who comes in contact with them.

Luke Rust [00:12:32]
Yeah, I mean there are three great limiters to the deployment of autonomous vehicles technology. Is this technology going to be okay? Regulation: can government get on board and support the deployment? And then the third critical one is consumer engagement. And that's a challenge to the whole industry really, to start engaging with the public, start letting them touch, feel, understand what the impact of these vehicles might be. And then you know hopefully that becomes a gradual movement towards being able to be around autonomous vehicles in the future.

Emma Nelson [00:12:58]
What are you doing for the people of Greenwich who will clearly need a certain level of reassurance and indeed encouragement for when this enormous change takes place?

Luke Rust [00:13:07]
So we are working with a company called DG Cities who are the digital arm of the Borough of Greenwich and they are doing a lot of public surveys, lots of workshops, lots of local engagement to make sure that you know they are engaging with the services that are being deployed on their roads.

Emma Nelson [00:13:21]
Natalie. Arcadis has done quite a lot of research into how people feel about the safety of driverless cars, haven't they?

Natalie Sauber [00:13:27]
So we've sent out a survey and some of the results that came back were: that over 50 percent of people think that autonomous technology is only five years away, the biggest barriers that they see is safety and cost, over 60 percent would get into a driverless car and more people feel safe, than not.

Emma Nelson [00:13:47]
Kat, this all depends on whether the infrastructure is in place doesn't it for us to trust the cars on our own?

Kat Hanna [00:13:53]
What we're really talking about here is levels of automation. So actually, most people who drive a car now, your vehicle has some degree of automation. So, people will use it for things like parking, cruise control. It’s when you get up to level 5, that is what we understand to be fully driverless which means you can have eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel. And I think again people probably feel slightly different about that and the fact that actually there's no potential for a human to override the decisions that are being made, versus something which is maybe often about a level 3 or level 4, which is you may still have your steering wheel but if you want to then override the automation you can very much do that.

Emma Nelson [00:14:29]
And indeed if you go to the Science Museum in London anytime soon there's an exhibition on driverless cars and there is one which actually is a bed on wheels. I'm not entirely sure whether Addison Lee is quite ready to deploy that yet. But there is that real need to humanize technology so that we can make an emotional connection and trust it.

Luke Rust [00:14:45]
Yes indeed I was at CES in Las Vegas earlier in the year and you know a lot of the future thinking for automotive folks is, what can you do with a vehicle if it is driverless? What are the other prospects that we can do? Could it be a bed in the vehicle? Could it be other forms of delivery, could it be a shop on wheels, could it be an office on wheels? There's so much opportunity there. But we need to get through the next five years to make sure that it's safe for everybody.

Emma Nelson [00:15:10]
You're with Long Story Short, the future cities podcast from Arcadis UK. I'm Emma Nelson, and with me are Natalie Sauber from Arcadis, Luke Rust from Immense Solutions and Kat Hannah from Lendlease.

Emma Nelson [00:15:20]
Natalie, how ready are our systems for this? I mean getting a driverless car on the road is one thing but making it function around the rest of the city or indeed the country roads is something completely different, isn't it?

Natalie Sauber [00:15:38]
I think we need to look at it from a city by city perspective. Some cities are a lot more equipped to handle this kind of driverless car on their future streets. Whereas other cities... If we for example look at London it's got quite dense urban sprawl across it. It might be very difficult to deploy driverless cars in there. But then if we look at it from the Dubai perspective, where infrastructure is literally newly built with already driverless, and to a certain extent artificial, technology in mind, it's going to be a lot easier to deploy. Most of the testing that's been done has obviously driven out of the United States. People are a lot more accustomed to having driverless cars on the roads, especially within Silicon Valley. They read the news, they see it on television so it's a lot more brought home, and they've also been taken on the journey a lot earlier than perhaps in Europe where driverless cars are still seen as a bit of a special or niche area that only a certain amount of people have access to.

Kat Hanna [00:16:34]
Take for example somewhere like Norway where they already have very high ownership rates particularly of Tesla, one of the highest rates outside the United States, moving towards an ownership model of driverless cars makes a degree of sense there.

Kat Hanna [00:16:48]
It's interesting that you brought up America as an example and perhaps I would potentially challenge this idea. I think if you went outside Silicon Valley or the deserts of Arizona we would probably see some resistance to driverless vehicles. Not least I think there is the kind of cultural attachment to driving. I was actually in California about two weeks ago and you can still see that for the most part the car is very much still king and people quite enjoy driving and you know the car is their space, they enjoy the experience to a degree. But also, what are some of the challenges in resistance as well? Luke, I think you touched on things like the impact on the labour market. So again going back to the American context, you know I think in about 30 states across America being a truck driver is the most common job for white working class men. And you actually think well let's say if we actually then remove that as a job because we've automated the delivery, you know delivery or freight, people aren't just going to give up those jobs overnight. So again, it's actually understanding there will be potentially cultural, there will be political resistance I think to roll out at a grand scale.

Emma Nelson [00:17:51]
So it's all well and good having safe, clean and friendly driverless cars pottering about our cities. But what about when it comes to who's responsible for them? Whose job, for example, is it to make sure that there is somewhere to park? Kat, I think you're the only person I've ever met who's done extensive research into the future of car parks. This is something that preoccupies a lot of city planners, isn't it? Once we’ve got all these cars going, where are they going to stop?

Kat Hanna [00:18:17]
Yes absolutely. There's that, and there's also you know if I think about it in terms of my day job as someone who's involved in the development of property, there's also what if I'm building something that's going to be complete in 20 years’ time or so? Do I need to put a car park in? So, it's not just what do we do with the existing assets but actually, do we need to keep building them as well. And obviously we are increasingly pushed for space in our cities. So there's this question as to what extent is the car park the best use of space? When it comes to driverless cars and car parking I think there's a couple of main things to think about. Firstly, what it allows you to do if you have a driverless vehicle is we no longer actually need people to go into car parks and you don't even necessarily need to have the car park next to the place where you want to go. So, if I want to go to a shopping centre I can get dropped off by my driverless vehicle and go and do my shopping. The vehicle can either go on its way and pick up other people or it can go be parked somewhere else, perhaps on the outskirts of the city where land values are cheaper.

Emma Nelson [00:19:11]
Natalie, when you're working at Arcadis, how many of the clients that you work with are actually factoring this into their plans and their designs?

Natalie Sauber [00:19:20]
We actually are working for a client who owns a number of car parks across Europe and they are now in the process of selling their car parks. What they're basically saying is that we actually want to sell our assets because we believe that these assets in the future are going to be heavily either remodelled, there might not even be car parks in the future. We've heard a lot about makerspaces and inviting small businesses or entrepreneurs to come and share the space, or else really make the car park a bit of a destination area whether that's in redeveloping them for experience or even just inviting schools back in.

Emma Nelson [00:19:52]
Luke, you are dealing with local authorities who are having to make space for this new future of driverless cars in Greenwich in London. What does this say about who controls our roads when you have private companies coming in? I need only mention Uber in London and the effect on the city streets have been something that no one could really predict. And this has left local authorities absolutely on the back foot.

Luke Rust [00:20:19]
That's right. And in London we've seen a lot of ‘launch and defend’ tactics from mobility service providers. So, people putting vehicles into cities and then defending from regulation trying to get them out of the cities. It's a very tough issue for cities to deal with. And actually, the best thing that they want is to be involved every step of someone deploying in their cities. We have worked quite closely with the FAA, we're working with the Borough of Greenwich to make sure that everything that we do and the service that we are designing for the city is very compatible with the city.

Emma Nelson [00:20:48]
Transport for London, and Greenwich, though, aren't going to be in a position to say we don't want to do this.

Kat Hanna [00:20:50]
You're right to point out that actually there will be for example either certain boroughs or governance bodies that will be reluctant to say no. And I think that leaves the potential concern because what we often hear is ‘oh well, you're being anti innovation, or you just don't want to try new things’. You know, as if you’re a luddite who is fighting the future, and I think we should be wary necessarily of innovation for innovations sake. Potentially a bit of a pushback or a bit of rigor again about challenging these companies to articulate what their benefits are going to be shouldn't be seen as necessarily being anti-innovation.

Emma Nelson [00:21:22]
And one thing that leads you to think though, Natalie, is that if you start trialling cars on let's say borough by borough or city by city, you'd risk not having a coherent and cohesive system in which driverless vehicles can work and you end up with a little sort of village mentality of people protecting their own territory.

Natalie Sauber [00:21:43]
I think essentially it will require the support of the general public and specific legislations for cars to work there. And for the most part, umbrella organizations will be national ones, so unlikely to have lots of splinter groups. And that's really ultimately what you want to aim for. You need real experts dealing with as few international organisations as possible. You want the big firms to not having to deal with a lot of smaller councils. Infrastructure would likely still be built on a local level, but governance ought to be on a national level.

Emma Nelson [00:22:12]
Final question to all of you. Will there ever be a day when we laugh at the idea of ever having to have driven our own cars? Luke?

Luke Rust [00:22:21]
I would love to think so but we're still a long way off from that.

Emma Nelson [00:22:24]

Natalie Sauber [00:22:25]
Probably yes. But it will take a long time.

Kat Hanna [00:22:27]
I can see it happening, again in the longer term, I think particularly from a safety perspective we will wonder what on earth are we thinking letting humans get behind the wheel of these vehicles.

Emma Nelson [00:22:35]
That brings us to the end of today's show. Natalie Sauber from Arcadis, Luke Rust from Immense Solutions and Kat Hannah from Lendlease. Thank you all very much for joining us.

Emma Nelson [00:22:45]
And if you enjoyed that, make sure you subscribe. You'll find fresh podcasts popping up every month over at, and there'll be lots of extras too all to do with the future of our cities. You've been with Long Story Short, the future cities podcast from Arcadis UK. I'm Emma Nelson. Goodbye. Thank you very much for listening.

Click to see more episodes

Connect with {name} for more information & questions

Arcadis will use your name and email address only to respond to your question. More information can be found in our Privacy policy