The future of UK driving

Cycling-only areas, diesel free zones & high tech cars: New EU rules set out the objectives for future roads.

Plans reveal a future of increased automation and accommodation for cyclists & pedestrians.

While much attention is paid to the rise of self-driving and alternative-energy cars, there remains some distance to cover before we’re all reclining at ease as on-board computers autopilot us into work. In the meantime, slightly more pragmatic than journalists or high-tech boffins, bureaucrats in Brussels continue to unroll regulations for the transformation of our cities. The new order seems to include a heavy focus on cycling, with –possibly to the relief of commuters- segregated cycling routes. Dedicated infrastructure serving pedestrians and cyclists, it’s hoped will prevent accidents in line with an ambitious target to reduce road deaths 50% by 2030.

Meanwhile, much has already been made of the separate focus on reducing the number of diesel vehicles in city centres- with many city authorities around the world taking direct or indirect action to limit the usability of diesels. In the next few years there’s every likelihood more financial disincentives, higher tax and even outright restriction for diesels at peak times might be considered in cities to improve air quality. With 40,000 premature deaths per year (according to the Royal College of Physicians) it would seem pressure is mounting on local governments to act. At present vigorous lobbying by the motor industry seems to be holding back the tide of more draconian anti-diesel legislation, but this may not last long. With a waning market share and declining profitability, diesel may soon be cut loose as big business finally, terminally, withdraws support. Most manufacturers admit the future lies in petrol (itself getting more and more efficient) and alternative-fuel cars, suggesting as soon as the costly legal and political bills of defending diesel from governments starts to outweigh returns, the plug may be pulled on lobbying- leading to a surge in strict anti-diesel rules.

Another area the EU seeks to develop in city planning is speed restrictions- 20mph zones (or 30kmph in European cities) are to become more and more prevalent. Some groups are already calling for ISA (intelligent speed adaptation) technology to control our speed for us, or at least set reminders for drivers nearing the limit. It’s safe to expect lower speeds overall (as governments seek to reduce accidents and emissions in one fell swoop) with a rise in digital tracking and more cameras in city centres. Until the self-driving car revolution, then, there may still be time for our roads to take on a very different character altogether.


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