The Role Of Behavioural Science In Road Transport Webinars - 18-19 May 2021 7259

The Role Of Behavioural Science In Road Transport Webinars - 18-19 May 2021


We’ve all appreciated over the past year how user behaviour has impacted on travel across all modes of transport.  Some see this as an opportunity to “reset” and to introduce new technology and change services to help meet future safety and environmental goals.  Although it’s partly an issue of technology and investment, making these changes also depends strongly on user acceptance and behaviour.

These two webinars were organised by the Automotive and Road Transport Systems Technical Network of the IET.  They were intended to give engineers a better appreciation and understanding of the role of behavioural science in the design and operation of future transport-related products and services. We had over 300 registrants from more than 30 countries and the audience were encouraged to contribute comments and questions which led to lively and informative moderated discussions on both days.  

The first webinar focussed on drivers and their use of road vehicles as technology develops to improve safety and environmental performance.  With death rates essentially static it seems that drivers’ behaviour remains a key factor in combatting the “fatal four” (speed choice, seat-belt wearing, distraction and self-imposed impairment).  The government has ambitious goals for carbon reduction from road transport, and deployment of Electric Vehicles is a core part of the strategy.  Battery Electrics and hybrids now comprise about 1 in 10 of new vehicle registrations but, clearly, many more drivers need to be persuaded; during the seminar we explored user needs and key issues in the widespread adoption of EVs. Briefly, these were identified as awareness, value-for-money, charging infrastructure, adequate vehicle performance and overall desirability. For the future, Automated Vehicles offer the prospect of improved safety and other benefits but they need to be accepted by all road users in order to achieve their full potential. Recent behavioural research has provided insights into the key issues of safety & security, reliability and responsibility.  It was proposed that these can be best addressed through provision of evidence, regulatory oversight and development of suitable infrastructure.

The second webinar took a broader perspective on road transport and particularly how behavioural choices affect environmental issues. Recently, the UK Government announced a commitment to cut emissions by 78% by 2035, compared to 1990 levels.  Since around 30% of UK’s CO2 emissions come from Transport with just under 90% being from road transport, the sector is under considerable pressure.  This webinar included a presentation describing how our transport choices have changed during the COVID-19 pandemic although differences between a pandemic and climate change were noted. Speakers explained how choices and behaviours can be influenced (nudged) towards healthier modes of travel and transport outcomes that are more environmentally desirable; this is where quality data and information is so important.  We also discussed the challenge of more radical behaviour changes that will likely be needed for compatibility with future carbon targets.  For example, the need to curtail car use to promote a smaller carbon footprint.  It was concluded that the necessary deep behavioural changes need a massive “shove” (rather than a nudge) while respecting social justice.  This level of behavioural change needs to be the responsibility of policy makers not individuals, and the values that underpin decision-making need to change radically and urgently towards to the polluter pays principle.

The IET is grateful to the speakers and guest moderators:
  • Lisa Dorn, Associate Professor of Driver Behaviour at Cranfield University 
  • Toby Park Energy lead for Transport & Sustainability work at the Government’s Behavioural Insights Team 
  • Rebecca Posner, Behavioural Research and Evaluation Lead within the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) 
  • Lee Skrypchuk, the Human Machine Interface Technical Specialist at Jaguar Land Rover (Moderator)
  • Tracey Budd Social Research and Behaviour Change Centre of Excellence at Highways England 
  • John Pickworth, Managing Director of SWARCO Traffic Limited  
  • Jillian Anabel, Professor of transport and energy at the University of Leeds 
  • Deirdre O’Reilly, Customer Insight and Behaviour Change Lead at Highways England (Moderator)

If you missed the live webinars you can catch up with them here and also contribute to our forum

by Dr Alan Stevens, Vice Chair, IET Automotive & Road Transport Technical Network Executive team


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