Citizens are becoming more aware of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs). Media interest remains high and key issues such as trust in technology, improved safety and user benefits are becoming issues that are being discussed more widely.
Milton Keynes Council recognises that preparing and involving its citizens is key to ensuring cities become ready for automation. Major public attitudes surveys undertaken in Milton Keynes in 2016 and 2018 identified that there was a general acceptance that self driving vehicles would be part of future city development, but a number of areas need to be addressed, such as how it would improve mobility for older and less mobile citizen and how the technology might change behaviour of citizens in the future.
As part of the CoEXist project the local authorities in Milton Keynes targeted focus groups who represent the views of older people and the future generations for whom CAVs may become part of the mobility offer in the city. Through the summer of 2019, three workshops were held. The stakeholder groups worked with city planners and professional facilitators to understand the hopes, expectations and fears that will need to be addressed before the technology can be widely introduced.
The views of older people and the future generations
The first workshop used an innovative approach, working with professional ‘storytellers’ to engage with a group made up of older and less mobile citizens. The session captured the views of this group in a non-technical ‘conversation’ designed to understand the feelings towards the technology. This approach enabled complex issues to be seen through the eyes of a group, for whom the technology was being developed. The session highlighted that this group were excited about the potential, but feared that it might get overtaken by technologists who didn’t fully understand the need of the less mobile.
The work also focused on the younger generation, with two workshops gathering around 60 young people drawn from a group of 13 – 15 year olds and another with 16-18 year olds. These young people belong to the generations that are likely to encounter this technology in the early years of its adoption. The key result for these sessions was that despite the apparent risks, particularly linked to security and hacking, the benefits would help with future mobility options and maintained some of the freedoms smart technology (such as mobile phones) already brings.
Detailed results from the workshops will be available early in 2020.