Well, it’s certainly been a while since I checked in. For those who didn’t read my first blog post, I joined DG Cities as a Project Officer just shy of three months ago. When I last wrote, I was excited and daunted in equal measure. From day one I found myself surrounded by an endlessly kind, sharp (though admittedly intimidating) team, and immersed in a seemingly ever-growing list of puzzling acronyms and complex technological terms. Luckily, I have since found my sea legs. I’ve comfortably settled into the team and have memorised most of the acronyms, which I can now fire off with an efficiency and confidence that belies my experience. I’ve also solved the mystery that is operating the office coffee machine. So, progress on many fronts!
Given the size of the DG Cities team, it is very much an “all hands on deck” sort of atmosphere. This has afforded me the exciting opportunity to be involved in a number of different projects and activities. I have attended thought-provoking conferences and meetings in far-flung corners of London, from historic embassy buildings sandwiched in the heart of busy central, to tiny offices situated in the city’s sleepy fringes. I have met with talented and knowledgeable experts and innovators, discussing with them ways to make our cities just a little bit greener, safer and more accessible. I also featured on my first podcast about the future of mobility, adding to the increasingly diverse portfolio of experiences I have garnered since joining!
One particularly exciting project that I started working on last month is Apollo, a ground-breaking, £15 million initiative that will test an autonomous ride-sharing service in different locations across Greenwich. The project spans 30 months and has some pretty impressive partners on board - Addison Lee, Oxbotica, Immense Simulations and Nominet.
For DG Cities, I’m leading the customer and community research elements of the project, or put less eloquently, the human side of things. But as we know, humans are complex. We have different identities, preferences, behaviours, fears. That makes this research interesting, but it also makes it complicated. And that’s where I come in: to figure out how people feel about an autonomous ride-sharing service. Who would choose to use it? Why? When? Would they be open to sharing with strangers? What would make their journey better, safer, cheaper, more efficient?
Perhaps you’re asking yourself why any of this is important. If you have a safe autonomous vehicle that works, then why should we have to research how people feel about it? Well, the conclusion I have arrived at since joining the team is that you can have the most sophisticated and effective technology in the world, but if people aren’t receptive to it, if they don’t trust the technology, it won’t take off. And I believe that the same holds true for this autonomous ride-sharing service: people need to be trusting and accepting of it in order for it to be implemented successfully.
So that’s what you’ll find me doing over the next few months: teasing out how people feel about this service, how we can address fears, accommodate preferences and ultimately create something that benefits people and cities alike. It’s a tall order but one I’m excited to tackle alongside my kind, sharp (and still a little bit intimidating) team.