Is health, safety and wellbeing really protecting our worker’s health? – Steve Perkins

Is health, safety and wellbeing really protecting our worker’s health? – Steve Perkins

Steve Perkins, Managing Director at Steve Perkins Associates, unpacks the big picture of workplace health and argues the ‘system’ for protecting worker health is flawed, particularly in the world of construction. 

“What gets measured gets managed”

So said Peter Drucker, the well-known management thinker. And it’s generally true. Unfortunately when it comes to protecting the physical health of our workers from exposures that cause disease and death, we tend to count the corpses rather than focus on controlling the exposures that produce them.

And even then, that counting only goes on at national level in the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) annual statistics. Did you know that the construction sector in Great Britain is responsible for 3,500 occupational cancer deaths, plus 5,500 new cases of occupational cancer each year? And at any one time there are some 81,000 construction workers with work-related ill-health[1] . When you think that the Highways sector accounts for about 30% of all construction activity that’s potentially a lot of occupational cancer caused by highways work.


So what are we measuring when it comes to health protection?

Or maybe a more pertinent question is how do our current health, safety and wellbeing metrics impact on health protection?

Well, numbers of mental health first aiders or champions is certainly important, but wellbeing-related measures like that won’t have any impact on reducing the physical, chemical or biological workplace exposures that cause the occupational diseases we’re discussing. To put it bluntly, no amount of mindfulness will stop you get silicosis or noise induced hearing loss! (We’ll come to how wellbeing, occupational health and occupational hygiene work in relation to one another in a moment.)

And then there’s LTI, LTA, AFR… (otherwise known as ‘Looking Good Indices’.) All of which focus on accidents, not ill-health. It could be argued that even in terms of preventing accidents these metrics are not a lot of help due to their lagging nature. They don’t reveal anything about what is being done now to reduce workplace risk and so decrease the likelihood of future accidents. But I digress; that’s a different article.

Well surely then, RIDDOR is the answer when it comes to health metrics and we all count RIDDOR reportable diseases. Unfortunately RIDDOR is to health protection what AFR’s are to accident prevention – seriously lagging! The key thing about the most serious occupational diseases is that they are ‘long latency’ i.e. it can take years if not decades for many of them to develop. So, by the time the disease manifests, the damage is done and, because there are no cures for these diseases, it’s too late to stop them progressing.

The BIG picture of workplace health

I mentioned earlier that we’d look at how wellbeing, occupational health and occupational hygiene work in relation to one another. There are 3 broad, but overlapping dimensions to workplace health.

  1. The classic understanding of health at work comes under the banner of Occupational Health. This is the clinical arena that’s all about managing the health of workers as it is today. It covers the work of doctors and nurses on things like fitness for work, medicals and health surveillance.
  2. Wellbeing is the second dimension of health at work. This is primarily about encouraging individuals to make healthy lifestyle choices and has benefits for both employees and employers.
  3. The third dimension of health at work is Occupational Hygiene. This is all about protecting people from workplace health risks. These are the entirely preventable risks the workplace itself creates, which are regulated by the HASAWA 1974. Preventing ill-health is all about controlling exposures; it’s not about clinical treatment or health promotion. It’s about protection. Occupational Hygienists are highly qualified applied scientists who deal with the anticipation, recognition, evaluation and control of workplace health risks. Theirs is a cross-cutting discipline encompassing aspects of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, ergonomics, toxicology and engineering.


Is health, safety and wellbeing really protecting our worker’s health?

Let’s return to our original question. Someone once said, “the system you have is perfectly designed to give you the results you’re getting”. If the HSE’s statistics are anything to go by the ‘system’ for protecting worker health is pretty dysfunctional, particularly in our world of construction.

Unfortunately these levels of serious occupational disease and death reported by HSE have been going on for decades and they’re generally not reducing. It seems to me that it’s hard to conclude anything other than the answer to our original questions is a resounding ‘NO’. By any outcome measure, at an industry level, health, safety and wellbeing is not really protecting our worker’s health.

Good practice in highways worker health protection

That’s that not to say there aren’t pockets of good practice, and at the Highways UK show in November I’ll be unpacking some great examples from Connect Plus’s award-winning Healthier Highways initiative on the M25. You may be wondering by now what should we be measuring if we want to really protect our worker’s health? Remember – it’s all about reducing exposures. Come along in November to find out more!

[1] HSE (December 2021). Occupational Cancer statistics in Great Britain 2021. © Crown copyright 2021


Steve will be speaking at Highways UK on 2-3 November at the NEC in Birmingham on the Big Thinking Stage. See the full speaker line up here:

Achieving zero harm on roads across Europe – challenges for the next five to ten years

Achieving zero harm on roads across Europe – challenges for the next five to ten years

Delivering Vision Zero will be challenging and resource intensive. The timeframe for delivery also requires focus on what matters most in reducing the number and severity of casualties says Jeremy Phillips, leader of CEDR’s Working Group on Road Safety

The ambition to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries (KSI) on our road networks, often to zero and within relatively short timeframes, is shared amongst several countries and individual road administrations across Europe.

In England, National Highways’ own ambition, for example, is to achieve Vision Zero (in which no one dies or is seriously injured as a consequence of working or travelling on its network) by 2040.

Safe travel is, in general terms, achieved when safe people travel in safe vehicles on safe roads. While national road administrations have direct control over just one of those factors – safe roads – they can exert a wider influence over factors that are linked to collision and casualty reduction. Supporting road users in achieving safe and compliant behaviours, and motivating vehicle manufacturers to design for greater safety are examples of the wider influence exerted by road administrations.

Safe roads remain, however, the area in which the greatest influence may be exerted. It is in this context that CEDR’s Working Group on Road Safety has considered the main challenges that will be faced by roads directors over the next five to ten years. They have outlined the challenges in a position paper which will be discussed at the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR), which is taking place as part of this year’s Highways UK.

The challenges outlined include ensuring a strong link between road safety ambitions and the sustainability agenda. And acknowledging and exploiting areas of common purpose, such as managed speeds for injury reduction, collision avoidance and pollution control. 

The paper also acknowledges the importance of delivering safety across the entire road network. There are clear benefits derived from enhancing the safety of routes that carry the highest flows of traffic. But a vision for zero KSI requires that all roads need to deliver the same level of performance, and consequently require proportionate levels of investment. The pathway to achieving this will be one of prioritisation. This presents a further challenge to roads administrators to share data and intelligence, to help ensure that we collectively achieve the greatest good for the greatest number in the shortest possible time.

Similarly, the paper recognises that a zero KSI ambition requires that enhanced safety is provided for all categories of road user. This is a challenge that becomes more demanding as the types of roads for which an administration is responsible becomes wider. Physical infrastructure to segregate modes, especially those most vulnerable to injury, and to protect those working on the highway will be an important contributor. But it will also be a challenge where road space is limited. 

New technologies, including digitisation, are likely to make a significant contribution to casualty reduction. Roads authorities have a role to play in supporting technological advancement, especially in providing the data that will enable more digitised vehicles to operate efficiently. There will also be challenges in managing the transition period between now, and a future in which connected and autonomous vehicles are dominant.

Delivering Vision Zero will not be easy and it will require considerable resource to achieve. The relatively short time period over which this needs to be done also means that road administrations will need to focus on the measures that matter most, and which are most likely to ensure fewer casualties. The Working Group for Road Safety’s paper will help to provide that focus, whilst accepting that decisions about priorities will be greatly influenced by the challenges faced by each road administration in their own jurisdiction.

Jeremy Phillips is the Leader of the Conference of European Directors of Roads (CEDR) Working Group on Road Safety. He is also Head of Road User Safety at National Highways. His presentation: The Main Road Safety Challenges for European Roads Directors for the next five to ten years – towards Vision Zero, will be held in the National Highways theatre at 9.45 – 10.00 on Thursday 4 November at Highways UK.

Embedding a decarbonisation culture into the highways sector

Embedding a decarbonisation culture into the highways sector

We need to see a cultural change towards approaches to carbon, says John Dixon, Jacobs’ Vice President and Highways Market Director, and we should take inspiration from the transformationl improvements in safety achieved within the sector over the last 20 years

Over the last 20 years we can take pride in the transformational improvements made in health, safety and wellbeing in the highways sector. Key to this has been the significant investments in cultural safety programmes. This has driven a mindset change throughout the value chain, with so many more people now choosing to do the right thing and lead the way on safety, regardless of their level of experience or seniority. These were ‘no regrets’ investments that in many cases have yielded delivery and bottom-line business benefits, as well as improved safety performance.

Just like safety, carbon reduction now demands the full and absolute focus of the industry over the next thirty years, but critically over the rest of this decade. There is so much we can do together to reduce carbon emissions in highway infrastructure solutions, and we have the talent to do it.

If we look at how safety has now become embedded into organisations’ business strategies and operations, we can take inspiration to do the same with carbon. Many of you will be familiar with having a ‘safety moment’ at the start of each meeting. This is one relatively small feature of a typical safety programme that places health, safety and wellbeing management at its heart. Perhaps the next time you’re holding a meeting you could think about also having a ‘carbon moment,’ and help place carbon reduction at the centre of your organisation?

In addition to safety moments other features of the safety culture change architecture include leadership commitment training, all staff orientation training, staff-led action groups, observation records/’don’t walk bys’ and stand downs, amongst others. Drawing on this existing architecture we can make a running start to embed carbon management in our organisations, crucial to driving environmental, social and economic growth within our sector.

There are some challenges to this, with few organisations implementing transformational change in the same way. This has been the case with safety management. Imagine how much faster it might have been if everyone adopted the same approach, whether that be highway authorities/clients or suppliers, especially when the goal of zero accidents or harm has been so universally sought by the sector.

Adoption of a common standard to frame our investment and transformation therefore makes perfect sense for carbon, as net zero is the goal we are all striving for. PAS 2080 ‘Carbon Management in Infrastructure’ is increasingly being adopted and promoted in the highways sector. It provides a systematic way for managing whole life carbon in infrastructure delivery that the industry could use to accelerate improvement. This is a flexible standard that can be applied to different project types, sizes and stages. If we use it as a means to facilitate consistency and collaboration at pace we stand a better chance of making a difference on time!

The sooner we see a cultural change towards approaches to carbon, the sooner we can meet our net zero targets, and ensure better business performance, reduced costs, increased competitiveness and innovation. We need to build on what we’ve achieved so far, and make sure our highways are fit for a truly sustainable world.

John Dixon is speaking at Highways UK in the Main Theatre panel Getting serious: climate action towards net zero which takes place at 10.40 on 3 November. Other panelists include Rachel Skinner, Ben Harris, Jamie Bardot and Elliot Shaw.

Supporting mental health with ‘One Million Lives’

Supporting mental health with ‘One Million Lives’

Fiona O’Donnell, Jacob’s Head of Health, Safety and Environemnt (HSE) outlines her organisation’s efforts to break down the barriers that hinder honest conversations about mental health and encourage an open culture of support around the globe

Fiona O’Donnell, Jacobs

How would you feel if you had a tool that allowed you to check your mental health regularly to spot early warning signs, avoid prolonged suffering and treatment and increase your mental resilience? That’s what our One Million Lives campaign is all about, and I’m proud to be its champion…

At Jacobs we’ve been supporting the mental health of our colleagues for a long time by hosting a mental health resilience programme, dealing with topics such as navigating the challenges of lockdown, how to build resilience and coping with grief.

However, insights from the programme, combined with feedback received from mental health champions, employee surveys and conversations with mental health experts all highlighted the need for more proactive and preventative solutions. And that’s where we decided to develop ‘One Million Lives.’

Launched in December 2020 One Million Lives is a complimentary campaign accessible to everyone, no matter where you live, or who you work for. It’s as relevant to people working in the Highways sector as to any other area of activity. Many people don’t have access to corporate resources or Employee Assistance Programs, so we wanted to develop a tool that detects early signs of mental distress and offers proactive strategies, such as sleep, exercise, and social media behaviours.

Our goal? To break down the barriers that hinder honest conversations about mental health and encourage an open culture of support around the globe.

To complement the app we developed a website with additional resources to help you to engage with the One Million Lives campaign and help you with your mental health growth. By inviting people to routinely check-in to see how they are doing and encourage their own networks to do the same, we hope more people will become aware of their state of mental health.

While still in its infancy, the data collected to date (14,000 check-ins) has already helped us at Jacobs to gain insights into the mental wellbeing of our employees, and allowed us to make informed, data-driven decisions in response.

We, and many other organisations believe that this campaign has the potential to transform our collective approach to mental health. But ultimately One Million Lives is more than just about an app or a website. It’s about encouraging everyone to have open and honest conversations.

To learn more about One Million Lives make sure you look out for Fiona’s session at Highways UK running on the Big Thinking Stage at 2pm on 4 November. Highways UK is free to attend, book your place now

How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety

How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety

Steve Birdsall, CEO of Gaist, provider of roadscape insight and intelligence services, explains the very real possibility of a revolution in road safety

In the past decade, the role of data within the built environment has changed dramatically. An explosion in the information available to infrastructure asset owners and operators, the emergence of technologies and digital processes such as BIM and digital twins and advances in analytics, have transformed how we understand the world around us.

For those managing and interacting with our roads, this data revolution is starting to unlock benefits including optimising network performance, driving efficiencies and – critically – improving safety.

The richer the level of information and insights available to roads decision-makers, the greater the depth of analysis, the better informed they are and the better positioned they are to respond to defects and challenges on the network.

This data is not just becoming available to the decision maker. Road users will soon be able to access real-time information about the condition of roads.

Advancing road safety
Today, a new development is set to further deepen our understanding of the network and facilitate a huge step forward in road safety.

Data captured from sensors within regular passenger vehicles can now be used to provide on-the-ground ‘live’ detail about road friction, road roughness, temperature, and surface defects.

As an example of how this data could be used, the implications for the winter-market particularly are huge. Decision making by Winter Duty Managers over when and how to treat the network has traditionally been based on Road Weather Information Systems, which though time tested, have well documented limitations.

But armed with this next-level of dynamic data – combined with other reliable data sources such as radar and satellite images – those responsible for managing our roads networks and keeping them open and safe during the winter period will be far better informed and empowered to predict and plan their interventions.

Take gritting routes. With this rich data, our knowledgeable and experienced winter service managers will have at their disposal far greater detail of how gritting routes are responding to treatment and how drivers are experiencing travelling on those gritted routes.

Fed into a winter service strategy and used to combine with and complement other winter specific features, this information can be deployed not just in one season but to drive continual improvement for future years.

This will provide evidence to quickly respond to key questions such as what parts of the network should we treat? when should we treat them? and what treatments should be carried out?

So how does it work?
The real time datasets consist of a combination of tyre-road friction readings, ambient temperature and windscreen wiper speeds from passenger vehicles traversing the road network. This is then used to create a set of map layers to give winter maintenance professionals access to a level of detailed information with which to inform their decisions.

The readings are all mapped using GPS and timestamped and are never the result of data from one vehicle – there is an established minimum threshold of vehicles from which data is drawn.

The real-time dynamic datasets will be accessible for the first time to local authorities and networks from Safecote, a Gaist partner, through its BM Roads System.

Advancing our mission
At Gaist, we have always been laser-focused on our mission to provide the deepest and richest possible intelligence about our roads to support critical areas including the safety of the network. With this latest development, we are proud to continue to honour that commitment.

Steve Birdsall Talking Heads; How vehicle sensor data is underpinning a revolution in road safety
Steve Birdsall is CEO of Gaist

Steve Birdsall will further explore how vehicle sensor technology is transforming asset managers’ approach to road safety at Highways UK, which is running at the NEC on 3/4 November. Other contributors to the session include Björn Zachrisson from Nira Dynamics in Sweden and Paul Boss, Chief Executive of Road Surface Treatments Association. For more information on Highways UK, including how to book your free exhibition and conference pass, go to

The hidden pandemic –  workplace health risks in highways

The hidden pandemic – workplace health risks in highways

Covid-19 has thrown the issue of workplace health into the spotlight. But in the highways sector, which has a heady cocktail of exposure hazards from manual handling to bitumen fumes, the control of workplace health risks has long been the Cinderella to accident prevention. Steve Perkins explains why we must focus much more on the health risks and points to pioneering work with Connect Plus and Highways England

It’s BIG!

The Health and Safety Executive estimates that annually 13,000 workers die from work-related (non-COVID) disease across all sectors in Great Britain. The total figure for accident fatalities is around 110-150 each year. So 99% health and 1% safety.

Of that total, construction alone accounts for 3,500 occupational cancer deaths, plus 5,500 new cases of occupational cancer each year. At any one time there are some 81,000 construction workers with work-related ill-health.

Highways accounts for a significant proportion of construction and has the usual cocktail of exposure hazards such as dust, noise, vibration, diesel exhaust, solvent and welding fumes, manual handling and solar radiation. And added to that of course, large amounts of bitumen fume.

Why ‘Pandemic’?

According the Centre for Disease Control in the USA, an epidemic refers to an increase, often sudden, in the number of cases of an infectious disease above what is normally expected in that population in that area. And a pandemic refers an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.

A key difference with work-related diseases is that generally they’re non-communicable i.e. you develop them through exposure to hazardous substances/processes and they’re not transmissible person-to-person. Strictly speaking epidemic and pandemic relate to infectious diseases. But, indulge me for a moment and assume we can apply them to non-communicable diseases as well.

Another difference is that work-related diseases generally have no cure. There’s no vaccine for silicosis or noise induced hearing loss.

The global picture for work-related fatalities is a little different to the UK with an estimated 2.3M disease deaths each year and 0.3M accident deaths (87% health and 13% safety). Although if we looked only at industrialised countries it would be similar proportions to the UK.

By any measure of scale this is a pandemic.

Why ‘Hidden’?

Firstly, unlike COVD, work-related diseases develop slowly, usually over a number of years and sometimes over a number of decades. This means that workers suffering these conditions retire early and die at home or in hospital or care homes. They are no longer ‘on the books’ of the employer who exposed them. That’s rather less visible than a workplace accident fatality isn’t it?

In fact HSE estimates that of the £16.2Bn cost of all work related injury and ill health, 66% is due to ill-health (and that only covers new cases of disease each year, not the burden due to past-exposure). Of that £16.2Bn employers pick up about 20%, government pays about 22% and individuals and families account for the remaining 56%. Not quite ‘risk-creator pays’ is it?

Secondly, workplace health hazards often go unrecognised and/or unobserved. Most people would probably recognise the risk of a fall from height quite easily, but do they appreciate the serious risks to lung health of dusts, fumes, fibres and vapours? We’ve found that in construction there is certainly an awareness and understanding gap to bridge when it comes to health hazards.

steve perkins highways related occupational health risks

Steve Perkins MA CDir FIoD FInstP AFOH is managing director of Steve Perkins Associates Limited

Highways UK Conference Panel

For this year’s Highways UK at the NEC on 3/4 November, we’ve assembled a high level panel of industry leaders and thinkers to discuss the issues raised by the ‘Hidden Pandemic’ in the context of highways and how we might begin to tackle the risks. Steve will be chairing the panel and highlighting some of the innovative work on health protection undertaken on the M25 in partnership with Connect Plus and Highways England. He will be joined by:

Andy Dean, Chief Executive, Connect Plus M25

Nicola Bell, Regional Director South East, Highways England

Dylan Roberts, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Director, Skanska

Alison Margary, President, BOHS – The Chartered society for Worker Health Protection

UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030

UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030

Author: Mark Cracknell – Head of Technology, Zenzic

What is the roadmap?

Mark Cracknell

Roadmaps provide a blueprint of the future. They offer an idea of what the future will hold, creating valuable insight into what different capabilities are on the horizon, and indeed when they will become available to address future challenges. That is exactly what the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030 delivers, by pinpointing over 500 milestones required to get self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads at scale by 2030.

Launched on Tuesday this week, the roadmap is truly unique. It not only outlines outputs or Milestones, but additionally the interdependencies between them. Ensuring this roadmap’s predictions for the impending future are realistic means it has been critical to consider the implications across society. That includes people, infrastructure, vehicles and, of course, the services from which society draws its countless benefits.

Featuring over 250 contributors from 150 organisations

Each organisation working in this space has been defining their own objectives and path to the future. This is entirely understandable. But what can be recognised is each of these visions of the future and routes forward are not aligned. The efforts of all these organisations are not pushing towards the same goal. Over 250 people from over 150 organisations have worked with Zenzic to do exactly that. They have built upon more than a dozen well-respected thematic roadmaps to deliver what is intended as a tool for decision makers, policy makers and investors.

There is a collective benefit in striving towards one single vision – combined with a common understanding of how we get there. This is the premise of the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030. It is intended to be a neutral, independent, collaboratively built and jointly owned agreement on the vision of the future we all want to see.

The roadmap is cross-organisational in its creation. As a result, the roadmap provides a single agreed vision for the future.

One vision guides our journey to 2030

If we are to work together on our journey towards a safe and sustainable future in 2030, we must first define where exactly we are headed. The roadmap is underpinned by the 2030 Vision:

“By 2030, the UK will be benefitting from proven connected and automated mobility, with an increasingly safe and secure road network, improved productivity and greater access to transport for all.

Next-generation services and technology are designed and developed in the UK, powered by high value skills and a strong supply chain, and driven by public demand, we are a world leader.”

The aspirational vision of the future, highlights where the CAM sector wants to be and the benefits to be realised by 2030.

Four Themes that structure the roadmap

The roadmap is a tool that can be utilised by all in CAM. As such, it has been vital to ensure it is comprehensive enough to make the 2030 Vision a reality. The roadmap has been created with four key Themes at its core. These themes do not focus on just one area, for example, technology, but instead encompass a number of areas.

Society and People – takes a people-centric approach and is the primary driving force behind the roadmap. It covers societal mechanisms such as Vehicle Approvals and Licencing and Use.

Vehicles – the first of two technology-focussed Themes. It looks at the technology required to enable connected and self-driving vehicles, covering aspects such as the automated driving system (ADS) and sensors, as well as the components of vehicle design that are impacted by changes in use.

Infrastructure – the second of the technology Themes. It deals with the environment in which connected and self-driving vehicles will operate.

Services – is an outcome-focussed theme. In some senses, it is the culmination of the three other Themes. Services articulates how vehicles (and infrastructure) contribute to achieving the vision to improve the mobility of people and goods.

Where can you access the report?

Want to learn more about the insights delivered by the UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030? Here’s how you can access the roadmap assets:

Interactive roadmap – The interactive roadmap delivers a comprehensive yet bespoke overview of the path towards 2030, allowing all to find their way through the roadmap. Access at

Roadmap report – the written report provides a narrative and context for the roadmap, complementing the interactive version. Download at

Insight workshop – enables you to find your own route through the roadmap. If you are interested in arranging a workshop or to book a meeting, contact

The Infrastructure theme of the roadmap shows how important early engagement is. There is no time to wait for connected and self-driving vehicles to appear before we adapt our existing products and services. The voice of the Highways community is a critical part of the early exploratory discussions of how legislation affects vehicles and services, which all rely on the right infrastructure at the right time. The danger of a standoff, where everyone is waiting for someone else to move first, will damage the UK’s position as a world-leader in CAM. Collaboration is at the heart of the UK’s global USP and we must all play our part in it.

Mark Cracknell is head of technology at Zenzic. Zenzic is curating the Connected and Automated Mobility Hub at Highways UK at the NEC on 6/7 November. Its programme will explore many of the infrastructure related themes and interdependencies contained within the roadmap.


Why language matters in the self-driving revolution

Why language matters in the self-driving revolution

Author: Daniel Ruiz – Chief Executive, Zenzic

Daniel Ruiz

Hopefully you’ve picked up on the relaunch at the beginning of this month (May) of Meridian Mobility as Zenzic. Set up in 2017 with its roots in both the Departments for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and for Transport, our role was and remains to accelerate the self-driving revolution by bringing together and unifying industry, government and academia.

Most notably, Zenzic is leading on Testbed UK, a collaboration of testbed centres, clustered broadly between London and Birmingham, which offers a range of facilities to safely take and test ideas from concept to deployment both virtually and physically. The emphasis is on the cross-sharing of data and collaboration; and it is this approach, we believe, that sets Testbed UK apart as a world-leading facility with the potential to put the UK at the centre of the global self-driving transport revolution.

But what’s in a name? Our new identity is intended to better reflect our purpose and help deliver our mission. The term zenzic means ‘squared’ or ‘to the power of’ and as such it conveys the multiplier effect we have on the UK’s connected and self-driving ecosystem. We are both catalyst and connector.

Alongside our new identity you may not have noticed some more subtle, albeit important nuances around the language we now use on our website and going forward within all our publications and communications.

Most significantly we are using the word “automated” not “autonomous” and we talk about “connected and automated mobility”, not “connected and autonomous vehicles.” “Cars” should be avoided unless when we mean only cars. We try to avoid acronyms when writing but I confess they do still sometimes pass my lips.

We aren’t saying “autonomous vehicles” – they aren’t acting in isolation as this term suggests. Not do we say “driverless” – there is a driver, it just isn’t a person at a steering wheel. And CAVs – well this is the challenge as it’s used so widely in out sector. Part of our role is to provide access to all to this revolution so a three letter acronym is so unwelcoming. But I can’t deny it is so convenient!

Instead we use the terms such as:

Connected and self-driving vehicles

Connected and self-driving technology

Connected and self-driving future

Connectivity is such an important aspect that can benefit mobility whether the driver is human or otherwise. For this reason we strive to say “self-driving vehicles” only if we mean self-driving and not connected.

This isn’t pedantry and very much echoes the sentiments of Professor Paul Jennings from Warwick Manufacturing Group, one of the Testbed UK partners, when speaking in a panel discussion we (as Meridian) convened at Highways UK last year.

Professor Jennings said, almost as an aside: “It may be a minor point but I’m not sure I like the term autonomous. Autonomous implies you are a bit out of control. I prefer to think of it in terms of letting the driving being automated because ultimately the vehicles should be there because they are making lives better for us. I think it comes down to looking at the benefits to people, the human benefit is really very important, and the term autonomous puts the emphasis on the machine.”

And that pretty succinctly sums up our thinking. Inevitably new technology has a period where the terminology isn’t agreed upon before it settles down. We urge you to join the Zenzic team in striving for consistency and accessibility – language may seem unimportant to some but it helps make this revolution understandable to everyone and bring about its benefits sooner.

Daniel Ruiz is CEO of Zenzic


Invest today to deliver the highway infrastructure of tomorrow

Invest today to deliver the highway infrastructure of tomorrow

The UK’s strategic road network is one of its most valuable national assets, key to our economic growth. Four million people use Highways England’s strategic road network each day, and this is forecast to grow by over 40% by 2040.

Just as an effective roads network is core to the country’s economic resilience, so this in turn must be underpinned by a skilled workforce. At Balfour Beatty, our expert teams have helped to deliver major strategic highways projects such the M4/M5 smart motorway upgrade, the A3 Hindhead Tunnel and the A21 upgrade scheme between Tonbridge and Pembury.

However, there is a widening disconnect between the number of skilled workers retiring and the number of young people entering the profession. It is imperative that we work to close the skills gap if we are to ensure the workforce required to efficiently build and maintain our roads in the long term.

The growth of initiatives like The 5% Club, an employer-led organisation whose members commit to achieving 5% of their workforce being in ‘earn and learn’ positions, is an encouraging step in the right direction. Apprenticeships are a vital route into work and we should build on the number of entry-level positions we offer, as well as attractive career progression opportunities.

Coupled with a skilled workforce, the development of innovative construction practices is essential to delivering the country’s major pipeline of forthcoming highways projects: Highways England is bringing forward record investment in roads through its £8.7 billion Regional Development Partnership framework for road improvements between 2018-2024, and a £6 billion 10-year Smart Motorways Programme.

We must modernise our construction methods to meet the challenge of delivering these essential investments in our highways. In Balfour Beatty’s recent paper entitled ‘Customer Driven: Delivering roads for the future’ we highlight the particular need for greater off-site manufacturing as one such solution.

The increased use of technology in road construction such as Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DfMA) is crucial to reducing on-site works. DfMA can reduce build time by 20-60% by allowing work on two or more phases of a highway scheme to take place simultaneously: while one part of the scheme is being completed onsite, the elements needed for the next phase can be constructed elsewhere. The highways industry needs to adapt the way it operates to see fewer but safer roadworks and shorter road closures across the board. This will not only increase the wellbeing of operatives undertaking roadworks, but also will improve customer experience while they are being delivered.

We recently put this into practice on the A14 Cambridge-Huntingdon improvement scheme, which is being delivered by Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Costain, where two 1,000 tonne bridges were constructed off-site and installed using a remote-controlled modular transporter. These forward-looking ways of delivering highways services ultimately allow us to move away from the traditional model of workers operating on the side of the road, thereby increasing safety for the workforce whilst reducing costs, reducing delivery time and reducing disruption to the general public.

A safe and suitable strategic road network is vital to connecting communities, delivering goods and keeping people moving up and down the country. As an industry we must invest in the resources required to deliver the significant pipeline of major highways schemes that are essential to shaping our modern infrastructure.

Phil Clifton, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business, is speaking on the Future of Mobility in the Main Theatre at 15.15 on 8 November


Phil Clifton

Phil Clifton – Managing Director of Balfour Beatty’s Highways business

Joining up the good work

Joining up the good work

The highways sector has so far failed to move on from its traditional, largely manual ways of working. We have seen productivity flatline for over 20 years, struggled to deliver better customer service and communications and still impact the health, safety and wellbeing of our people through our working practices.

Collectively, we need a coherent industry-wide approach that combines our individual efforts, tackles the challenges we all face and delivers a highways sector that embraces the fourth industrial revolution. We need to learn from alternative industries away from the transport sector whose approaches are leading the way, such as Amazon’s 360 degree focus to improve technology which delivers greater customer service in a highly-competitive, rapidly-changing environment.

I want our industry to start this journey with Vision 2030. Investing in new initiatives and learning from other industry leaders, we can transform the highways sector.

We work in a people-centric business and I am passionate about the safety of my team. It cannot be right that we still ask our workforce to operate alongside a live carriageway.

For me, there are clear opportunities to remove our people from harm. We must harness the rapid advancement of technology and move quickly to use automation and digital solutions to deliver services differently. However, we must also build a supportive safety culture which enables our employees and our supply chain partners to protect themselves and others.

An engaged and empowered workforce is crucial in order to achieve Amey’s aim to create better places to live, work and travel, and Vision 2030 will achieve this.

To achieve results on a larger scale will mean breaking free from the siloes of technology to change the ‘resistance’ culture of the sector and the ways we operate. New technology is rife and right in front of us. The art of the possible is no longer the future but the here and now, and it gives us a massive opportunity to do things differently.

Across the industry, we are all working on isolated initiatives and Vision 2030 aims to join all of this good work up. The use of technology is giving us the opportunity to drive a culture shift across the sector. It is a culture shift that underpins not only greater efficiency, but also a new approach on health, safety and well-being. It also brings forward opportunities for greater diversity in our industry as the sector needs individuals with digital skills as well those with physical strength.

There is an understanding that change is needed. Vision 2030 focuses on what is required to achieve a notable shift in service delivery to engage and excite the next generation.

James Haluch is talking further about Vision 2030 on the Burges Salmon stage on Wednesday 7 November at 13.50


James Haluch

James Haluch – Highways Managing Director, Amey

Listening to the road user

Listening to the road user

Adopting the maxim “what gets measured gets managed” implies by association that what hasn’t been tracked or measured properly is missed and consequently doesn’t get managed effectively.

In the transport sector, listening to the views of passengers and other road users is essential if operators are to find out – and deliver – what their customers need or want. It follows from this that measuring satisfaction forms a crucial element of understanding what the issues that really matter. It also helps those providing transport infrastructure and services to manage and to plan real, positive changes for the user.

Consequently, user satisfaction research has become a core activity for Transport Focus over the many years it has worked to bring the voice of the user to those who provide rail, bus and tram services. Since 2015, the organisation has also represented the interests of those using the A roads and the Strategic Road Network managed by Highways England. Since being given this expanded remit we have undertaken many research studies focusing on a range of issues relevant to road users, all of which are available on our website.

These include topics such as users’ experiences and needs when caught up in delays; disruption caused by incidents or roadworks; their views on using smart motorways; and even the perennial road surface quality.

Earlier this year we published the second edition of our annual Motorway Services User Survey (MSUS), which enabled the industry to see how motorway users rate the facilities they are offered at service areas up and down the country. Results have already informed some major improvements for users and will help to drive up satisfaction further over time.

Transport Focus also knows that our motorways and A roads are used by many different people, with varying needs and expectations. That is why we will be publishing more research in the coming months looking at the experience of disabled road users, as well as that examining how to measure the satisfaction of cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians who use, travel alongside or cross over these roads.

At this year’s Highways UK, we will launch the Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) – our most significant survey of road user opinion since we became engaged with the sector in 2015. It is an entirely new national survey, with results available on the new Transport Focus data hub, that will provide useful information to Highways England and others in the sector, helping them focus on improving the things that matter to road users. Meanwhile, the current National Road Users’ Satisfaction Survey(NRUSS) will continue until March 2020.

SRUS is far more than just a replacement for NRUSS, however. It has been built differently, gathers data from interviews with far more road users from across the country, and will support more detailed analysis. SRUS will allow data to be interrogated or ‘sliced’ in many different ways, depending on individual needs – for example by road, region, time of travel and category of road user. This ensures that anyone, from a fleet manager to a maintenance contractor or member of the public, can go in via the online data hub to examine information from a range of perspectives. Overall satisfaction, journey time, management of roadworks, road surface quality, feelings about safety and driver information at both a national, regional or even specific road level will all be available at the touch of a button.

By providing a more sophisticated means to access a wealth of data about road user satisfaction, we believe that Highways England and others will have a much clearer understanding of where they need to concentrate their efforts to meet the expectations and the needs of road users.

Anthony Smith and Roads Minister Jesse Norman MP will launch the new Strategic Roads User Survey (SRUS) on 7 November at 11.10 on the Burges Salmon stage at Highways UK 2018. 


Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith – Chief Executive, Transport Focus

Taking a Human Factors Approach to Intelligent Mobility

Taking a Human Factors Approach to Intelligent Mobility

Intelligent Mobility – a silver bullet?

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs) and the new public transport models and powertrain technologies which are developing with them, are regularly positioned as the solution to a wide range of societal challenges ranging from:

·     city centre congestion – and the consequent costs from lost productivity and ill-health impacts from air pollution

·     road safety problems – after all, the often-cited statistic about accidents is that we can trace 94% to human behaviour (1)… (more on this later), and

·     isolation and societal fragmentation – with those in rural environments insufficiently served by public transport options (2).

However, to realise the benefits these new technologies and service models afford, there are a myriad of ‘human’ issues to be understood.

How can we address issues of trust (in both the technology and in other people with whom vehicles may be shared); behavioural change elements to support new technology uptake; and socio-political aspects of geographical equality and the policy requirements for change?

The complexity of these issues alongside the socio-technical nature of the systems in the intelligent mobility domain, mean a human factors approach is ideal (by which I mean a systems-thinking, human and system goal optimising, design discipline – (3)).

But what can a Human Factors Approach really bring?

One of the heroes of our discipline, the late Professor John Wilson, described Human Factors as a mix of science, craft and art. This is one of the great strengths of Human Factors and the reason, alongside its human centred nature, that it’s so helpfully placed to deal with the range of problems I’ve outlined.

For example, optimising end-to-end journeys for people, under the banner of ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) is proposed as part of the solution to city centre congestion. The MaaS trials in which we have engaged to date, have been part science (helping us work out our hypotheses; a sampling strategy; and an analytical approach). They have been part craft, as we have developed personas and the information delivery methods for our trials. Finally, they have been art, as we have (literally in some cases) drawn a picture of what’s possible from our minds-eye and asked people to go with us.

A focus on the interactions…

If 94% of car accidents are ’caused’ by human behaviour (and therein lies another article) then 94% of human behaviour can be seen to be driven by the ‘system’ (I’m using more art than science with my statistic here). In order really to understand what’s happening on our roads, and then to build solutions which really solve the safety issues, our focus must not only be on the internal human ‘drivers’ of behaviour, but on the contextual factors and wider interactions of the whole system from which the behaviour emerges.

Deirdre O’Reilly (4), Head of Social Research and Behaviour Change at Highways England explains: “We want to really understand what influences drivers’ behaviour on our network, all the interactions between them and the wider system element. By adopting the Safe System approach, we recognise that safety is our shared responsibility and we want to use all the avenues at our disposal to support drivers to ‘do the right thing’.”

Human Factors risk analysis tools like NET-HARMS (5) allow us to start to model the interactions between risks and not just deal with discreet elements. This leads nicely to my last point…

A system’s thinking approach…

“If you try and take a cat apart to see how it works, the first thing you have on your hands is a non-working cat.” (6) Douglas Adams

To work on big social issues like isolation and fragmentation using future mobility solutions, we need to admit that these issues are what my old boss used to describe as ‘way more than a head full’. The temptation is therefore to dissect the problem into smaller parts because then the issues becomes manageable. But then we don’t see the whole, and we don’t see the properties which emerge from the whole – we need a systems-thinking approach rather than only a reductionist approach to do this, sometimes looking at the whole system and not only slices of it.

Immersive techniques such as ethnography are pivotal to support an understanding of the system as a whole.

Felicity Heathcote Marcz, Cyborg Ethnographer in SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business explains…

‘By immersing myself in the context of interest, I can gain a much richer understanding of what it’s really like. It’s vital to get below the surface of complex issues and systems, and start to observe why people think, feel and do what they do. Without approaches like ethnography, this depth of understanding evades us.’

So where does that leave us?

There is great potential in the new mobility technologies and business models developing at this point in our human history. On their own, they are not a silver bullet for all of our modern-day ills, but, to mix metaphors, a Human Factors approach can certainly bring them a shot in the arm…

Dr Claire Williams is Technical Director for intelligent mobility at SNC-Lavalin’s Atkins business




3 Human Factors & Ergonomics in Practice: Improving System Performance and Human Well-Being in the Real World. Steven Shorrock & Claire Williams, CRC Press, 2017.


5 (Dallat et al, 2017)


Claire Williams will be talking further on human behaviours at Highways UK 2018.

See the iM Hub at: and join the intelligent mobility discussion on LinkedIn at:


Dr Claire Williams

Dr Claire Williams – Technical Director for intelligent mobility Atkins

Do you want to challenge the highways sector to change?

Do you want to challenge the highways sector to change?

 Talking Heads template

This is an incredible time to work in the UK highways sector. Across the country organisations are investing at record levels in innovative approaches to ensure the nation’s roads networks meet the demands of a growing travelling public.

But we know that we can do better. Just as the way that we build and maintain roads now is very different to the way we did things 10 years ago, so we know that there will be as much or more change in our future.

We want safer roads

We want more efficient delivery

We want delighted customers to value the network

We know that we can achieve this most effectively where the industry works together to identify the changes that it wants to make, that it needs to make.

So we see Highways UK as a brilliant opportunity to bring the industry together to discuss what our priorities should be.

Through our Change Infrastructure: Highwaysevent, we are looking to invite our customers, contractors, supply chain and stakeholders to join us at Highways UK.

We want to know what you see as the biggest challenges for the sector. But we want more than that. We also want you to tell us what you think the industry could do to respond to these challenges.

Over the course of a morning we will ask a diverse panel of presenters to put forward the challenges that they see for the sector, and the solutions that they think would work to resolve these problems.

We will then open it up to the industry to decide which challenge is most important, with a free vote to all Highways UK delegates.

Over the course of the next year we will then bring together the best people from across the industry to not just talk about the issue, but to put in the place the real change, creating a positive legacy for the sector that we will bring back to Highways UK in 2019.

Right now we are looking for people from across the industry who have a challenge that they would like to put to delegates at Highways UK. If you think that you have something, we hope that you will get in touch by emailing– and should your challenge be selected, CECA will provide support to help you prepare a short 5-10 minute presentation to deliver at the event.

So if you think you have an idea about how we can break new ground in digitising the industry; a suggestion of how we can secure the health, safety and wellbeing of our workforce; a proposal for new ways of building roads mode effectively; a way of recruiting a diverse new workforce; or any other idea that can revolutionise our sector, please do get in touch.

We look forward to seeing you in November, as we set off on a mission to change the industry.

Alasdair Reisner is chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association


Alasdair Reisner

Alasdair Reisner – Chief Executive, Civil Engineering Contractors Association

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Integrating technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure

Technology is changing the world we live in…. how many times have you heard that said recently? I don’t know about you, but I think by now we are all very aware that this is the case!

I’m interested in how people respond to technology changes: they tend either to embrace them or run for the hills. Let’s assume we are in the camp that wants to embrace this type of change. If this is the case, we are faced with a strange conundrum – it seems to be difficult to procure a technology solution and feel fully satisfied with the outcome.

Therein lies the problem though: more often than not we start with the solution itself without fully considering the outcome that we are trying to achieve. This is not too dissimilar to rushing out and buying the latest two seater sports car when the objective is to transport a family of five safely from A to B – perhaps some of us can relate to this.

I write about this light-heartedly, but it is a significant challenge for our industry. We can take the analogy further – in our situation we are often trying to drive the latest sports car down an ancient uneven cobbled road. In other words, we are trying to integrate the latest technology solutions into an ageing infrastructure and with a wide range of legacy systems. For these reasons I’m not convinced that there is such a thing as a ‘plug and play’ technology solution.

To realise the full potential of technology we need to do three things: begin by defining the outcome; consider carefully the possibilities and complexities of integrating new technology into existing infrastructure; work as one team across all disciplines.

At Costain, we find that beginning by working with our clients to define the outcome for their customers that we are trying to achieve provides an excellent focus for any technology project and is a huge help with key decisions. Secondly, we are passionate about a ‘bottom up’ approach to technology integration – in other words, we have a rich knowledge of how the end device (hardware) functions and we follow the integration from the end device back to the core systems.  Thirdly, we bring multiple skillsets together. Technology solutions don’t have to be defined by “technologists”. We bring all relevant disciplines from civil engineers, mechanical engineers, ecologists etc. and ‘technologists’ together to produce solutions that work.

Highways UK is always an excellent opportunity for industry to come together and discuss burning issues. This year Costain is delighted to be supporting the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub and very pleased to say that the competition is based entirely on client outcomes.

Several challenges have been set by various national and local authorities incuding Highways England, Birmingham City Council, Transport for the North, Transport Scotland, England’s Economic Heartland and The Air Quality Taskforce. The hub provides industry with an opportunity to propose technology solutions to these challenges, with winners chosen by each authority in a live judging session at the show. The challenges range from air quality to safety to optimising vehicle flow, so there is something for everyone to get their teeth into.

Click here for more information on the Intelligent Infrastructure Hub

James Bulleid is technology director for Costain’s infrastructure division


James Bulleid

James Bulleid – Technology Director – Infrastructure, Costain

Improving road safety for both road workers and road users

Improving road safety for both road workers and road users

Highways England invests a great deal of effort and resource into ensuring the operatives that work for the contractors and service providers in its supply chain do so safely. Safety is the primary business imperative for all Highways England operations with various committees and working groups looking at all options to improve the safety of road workers and road users.

Driving for Better Business (DfBB) is an initiative that can do both. It is an existing campaign, 10 years old this year, but which has just been revitalised by Highways England with a massive commitment to fund a new three-year programme. With strong support right at the very top of Highways England, from the CEO and Chairman down, DfBB is a road safety campaign with a difference, one where road safety is the desired outcome, but not the central message.

DfBB was originally set up by the Department for Transport following a report from the Motorists Forum looking into the problems posed by business drivers – whether they be in company cars, vans or trucks, or driving their own cars. Their research showed that employers don’t really listen to road safety messages. While the vast majority don’t want their drivers to put themselves or others at risk, other tasks such as meeting sales targets and growing the business usually take priority.

The focus of the DfBB campaign is therefore to talk to business owners and managers about how managing drivers and vehicles is a central part of the drive for business excellence. Ambitious businesses can achieve many significant business benefits, from the obvious ones such as fewer crash repairs and lower fleet insurance, to less obvious benefits such as reduced staff absence, better fuel efficiency and emissions performance, and lower recruitment and training costs because staff feel more valued and are less likely to leave.

The Campaign uses a growing number of Business Champions to help promote the campaign and prove that the benefits are achievable and not just theoretical. Long standing champions include companies like Skanska and Balfour Beatty who play a large part in the highways sector, as well others like Tesco and Iron Mountain who are heavy road users. Their stories, and the results they’ve achieved, act as an inspiration to other employers.

The campaign is relevant to the highways sector for two key reasons:

  • By encouraging employers to pay greater attention to how they manage their vehicles and drivers, the aim is to improve the roadworthiness of company vehicles and the competence of business drivers who use all roads, not just the SRN. The Campaign will also be looking at how it can help address the specific problems associated with heavy network users and traditionally high-risk users such as taxi and private hire firms. All of which will minimise disruption, damage to infrastructure and road furniture, and contribute to reducing the risk to road workers.
  • By supporting DfBB, major contractors can lead by example and push to improve standards down through their own supply chains. This, in turn, means their own sub-contractors will pose less of a risk while travelling to, from or around sites and closures. They will also be more efficient and profitable, allowing them to provide you with a better service at a lower cost.

The Driving for Better Business session in this year’s inaugural Safer Highways UK conference, which takes place at Highways UK on 8 November, will provide a full 360 degree take on how this initiative affects the Highways sector and those who work in it. Highways England CEO Jim O’Sullivan will explain his commitment to the campaign and how it affects the SRN supply chain; I will be talking about how the Campaign works in practice; In Clancy Group we have a case study of good practice and striking business benefits from within the supply chain; and with the Van Excellence programme we have a fantastic tool to help validate standards across the whole sector.

I look forward to seeing you all at Safer Highways UK.

Simon Turner is Campaign Director at Driving for Better Business. Safer Highways UK is a new conference running at Highways UK on 8 November.


Simon Turner

Simon Turner – Campaign Director, Driving for Better Business

Are you really listening?

Are you really listening?

“Are you listening, I mean, are you really listening”.

Being listened to and feeling that you are being heard is of huge importance to all of us. Why then should it be any different for our stakeholders when our organisations deliver a project?

When we consider the deluge of information hitting fixed and mobile screens on a daily basis when do stakeholders get the chance to be heard? People want to know if anyone or you in particular, are actually listening. Only then can you harness of the power of engagement to make a positive difference to the development of stakeholder relationships.

Highways England aims to create a dependable, durable and safe network, one which is free-flowing, serviceable, accessible and integrated. This network will support economic growth and result in sustainable benefits for the environment. Anyone planning, designing or building a highway would find this difficult to argue with. Integral to achieving these aims are communities, interest groups and organisations that have an interest in what we are delivering. Therefore engagement and listening to our stakeholders should also be integral to what we do.

Increasingly there is both a statutory obligation and an expectation that projects will carry out engagement and, critically, be able to demonstrate that engagement has been carried out thoroughly and effectively.  Successful engagement leads to:

·       Greater stakeholder buy-in: improving trust and productive interactions in the project, our organisations and the highways industry.

·       Enhanced design and delivery: delivering a project which takes into account stakeholder needs, interests and requirements; reducing the need for change further down the line.

·       Smoother approvals: incorporating stakeholder input can result in fewer objections, less opposition and more efficient approvals, saving time and money.

·       Managing issues: by engaging early and well, your project can identify and address issues before they arise.

·       Supporting change: by guiding stakeholders through change, listening to their concerns and helping them to understand the reasons and outcomes that you are aiming to achieve.

·       Demonstrating corporate responsibility: demonstrating that your organisation cares for and understands the impact of your projects, offering  the opportunity to deliver a positive legacy to areas and communities.

·       Reputation: engaging effectively can provide an excellent way to enhance, manage and protect your organisation’s reputation.

Our stakeholders are an asset. They are affected by the work that we do and, long after the project is over will live with the outcomes of what we deliver. They are a primary source of knowledge and information, their ‘lived experience’ can provide us with a more thorough understanding of the context for our projects as well as potentially giving greater life to the findings from our studies and surveys. They can give us perspectives and information on our projects that we cannot find elsewhere. By listening we can deliver stronger outcomes that work both for us and for our stakeholders.

When engaging think about:

·       Listening without interruption.

·       Silence as a tool to prove that you are paying attention.

·       Acknowledgement by repeating back what you have heard.

Listening is free and offers the power to turn a good project into a great one. At Jacobs we have a dedicated engagement team, giving our clients the benefit of excellence in engagement. Join us at the CIHT Briefing ‘Strategic collaboration in transport’ to hear more about how transport schemes and projects can be delivered more effectively through the use of engagement and successful partnership working.

Lisa Levy is speaking in the CIHT’s collaboration session taking place within Highways UK on 16 November


Lisa Levy

Lisa Levy – Director of Operations – Stakeholder Engagement, Jacobs

‘Autopilot’ Tesla fatality is a reminder to pace and structure autonomous car development

‘Autopilot’ Tesla fatality is a reminder to pace and structure autonomous car development

In late May of this year, Tesla announced that some 70,000 of its cars utilising its “Autopilot” assisted driving feature had driven 100 million miles on the road. This milestone was notable not only because it by far exceeded any competitors’ record but also because, as some commentators noted, on average, a fatality occurs on US roads every 100 million miles driven.

What has only just been reported however is that sadly the first fatality involving a Tesla in Autopilot had already occurred on 7 May in Florida when a Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode collided with a tractor-trailer, killing the Tesla driver. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation has now been opened.

Whilst the public response to this incident will undoubtedly be of interest to the Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) sector, it should be borne in mind that the cause (and the resilience of future mitigation) is currently unclear but the focus of any investigation is likely to be as much on Tesla’s approach to testing driver assistance features and software use as to the concept of CAV regulation.

Commentators and industry experts have regularly noted that Tesla’s startlingly successful vehicle programme (guided by its visionary founder, Elon Musk), has threatened to outstrip the pace of regulation in the US. Autopilot-enabled Tesla cars have been operating on an everyday basis on public roads since 2014 without significant regulatory impact.

In October 2015, an ‘over-the-air’ downloaded software patch gave the Autopilot feature to tens of thousands more existing owners of hardware-enabled Teslas in a way which appeared largely to have bypassed the NHTSA. Despite the fact that the Autopilot feature is expressly a test feature in “beta” and that, being a driver assistance tool, Tesla advises that drivers should at all times be alert and keep their hands on the wheel, there are numerous YouTube videos of drivers openly operating Teslas in Autopilot with little or no manual control and often dangerously and illegally.

This loose regulatory framework has facilitated a step change in the take up of autonomous features in vehicles but there will be some who say that the take up of driver assistance autonomous software features proceeded with too much haste and too little caution.

Disruptive innovation should after all only be ‘disruptive’ up to a point. It is probable that the regulatory position on existing vehicles with driver assistance features such as Autopilot and their testing will be reviewed with a view to tightening them up to ensure public safety.

Beyond mere driver assistance tools like Autopilot and looking ahead to true semi-autonomous or autonomous vehicles (where driver control is fully handed over to the vehicle system by design), authorities and regulators are also likely to be more proactive in the need to legislate and provide for common frameworks, standards and approaches to ensure public safety both in terms of hardware (eg sensors) and software (eg cyber-security).

In the UK, the Government’s policy paper “The Pathway to Driverless Cars” has provided a clear structured framework and approach towards the testing and eventual introduction of autonomous vehicles since February 2015. Proactive policy development is being supported by a number of publicly-funded pilot projects in the UK including in Greater Bristol, Greenwich, Milton Keynes and Coventry. The ultimate goal is to introduce autonomous vehicles against the backdrop of robust legal frameworks, insurance and safety standards already put in place.

Burges Salmon is an adviser to the VENTURER and FLOURISH driverless vehicle projects funded by Innovate UK. VENTURER and FLOURISH partners include Axa UK plc, Atkins, Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council.


Brian Wong

Brian Wong – Legal Director, Burges Salmon