Imagine a world that has no traffic jams
Natalie Sykes, Regional Director Institute of Directors
I encountered two road traffic accidents on Yorkshire’s roads within three days last week.
One incident involved a cyclist and a HGV. The second could have directly involved me, had I not have pulled over for a few seconds to check my phone. And there is nothing that I could have done to prevent it.
Motoring accidents inevitably turn the spotlight on road safety, driving standards and congestion on our traffic choked roads.
For me, the future of driverless cars and 5G connectivity cannot come soon enough.
If the technology behind self-driving cars is proven – and there are legal and technical hurdles to overcome before they become an everyday sight - we can reduce unnecessary journeys, make our roads safer and revolutionise the road transport industry through automated convoys.
Better connectivity, in both its digital and physical forms, is the key to unlocking the potential of the Northern Powerhouse.
Just think of a time when motorway hold-ups become a thing of the past and you can plan your exact journey time between, say, Leeds and Sheffield. Time spent sitting in traffic jams could be used for working as your car effectively becomes a mobile office.
That buzz word of productivity will suddenly be thrown up in the air too. I still find it difficult to understand how London’s productivity can be compared with other parts of the UK when the industrial landscape is so varied.
The IoD, through its Future of Connected Business report, has identified a wide range of recommendations that can enhance UK connectivity. These include capturing more and better data about our roads to drive intelligent investment decisions that reduce accidents, pollution, congestion and maintenance costs.
Small sensors linked to a 5G network would provide this information in real time. The insurance industry, as well as companies like Google and Apple, could and should do more to open up the data they are already collecting.
Whilst many areas of Yorkshire barely have 3G, some of our cities have Gigabit status such as York and Hull, whilst Leeds is in the advanced stages of positioning the city to be 5G ready. It’s the stars of our Yorkshire’s businesses like Prof Adam Beaumont, IoD member and our recently awarded Director of the Year for Innovation, who will champion making 5G a reality.
At the other end of the scale, we should be looking at game-changing technologies including a radial Hyperloop for the Northern Powerhouse, the conversion of regional airports into drone cargo and personal air vehicle ports and the creation of spaceports.
Some of the longer-term plans require vision and for policymakers to be brave enough to take hard decisions. The furore over HS2 in recent years shows how major transport infrastructure projects can create bitter divisions.
We are already falling behind some other countries when it comes to connectivity. We need to think big to speed up journeys, enhance safety and reduce pollution.
Dan Lewis, IoD Senior Adviser, Infrastructure Policy will be with us on 10 October for our Open House at Cloth Hall Court, Leeds, along with Dr Alan James, a leading former figure from Virgin Hyperloop One.
Join us from 5pm.