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From the explosion in ride hailing apps, on-demand transport options such as dockless bikes, or the availability of electric vehicles, the urban mobility landscape in the UK is dramatically different from five years ago.

The Government Office of Science’s recent report on the Future of Mobility drew attention to important developments in the transport sector, including the automation and electrification of vehicles. Indeed, Transport Minister Jesse Norman MP has stated we are in a “moment of disruptive change” but the sector “is not going to be dominated by a single invention or technological breakthrough … [this will] offer great opportunities for British business and industry to create new products, to conquer markets and ultimately to build economic value.”

However, is there is a risk for new ideas which have not yet been tested in the court of public opinion? How can companies provide leadership?

The media and stakeholder opinion are testing-grounds which tech companies must contend with. While the latest innovations often cause excitement, they are now accompanied by increasing critical inspection. The potential for widespread use of self-driving cars, due for testing on UK roads by the end of the year, could be welcomed by the public: they can improve safety and free up commuting time for other activities. However, there have already been concerns expressed about safety for pedestrians, cyclists and passengers. Tech companies will need to build trust, without short-selling their benefits to the public.

To achieve this, innovators need to think carefully about how they communicate to their customers, work with third party stakeholders to gain support for their proposition, and shape policy. Future of Mobility can be interpreted as a further call to action for the transport sector. Its publication, and the forthcoming Strategy demonstrates there is an opportunity for transport innovators to ‘speed up’ their work whilst ensuring consumer priorities and well-being doesn’t simultaneously ‘go off the rails’.

So is it too late to set the agenda? No. Businesses that plan to scale quickly in the future will have to if they are to meet the public’s expectations. Innovation can be used to inform and shape the regulatory landscape. Decision makers and communities alike respond well to being involved in early discussions about how new technology can meet their needs, rather than reacting to it. This is a useful start point.

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