driverless cars

People in London and Edinburgh will soon be the first in the UK to experience self-driving vehicle services as part of three new public trials announced by Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark on a visit to Oxbotica, part of one of the winning consortia.

Once the preserve of science fiction and Hollywood films, the projects will allow the public to ride autonomous buses on a 14-mile route across the Forth Bridge, as well as book self-driving taxis to travel around parts of London.

The projects were selected following a competitive process and will share a £25m government grant through the fourth round of the Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Intelligent Mobility Fund.

Each pilot combines the strengths of leading names from business, technology and academia – including Jaguar Land Rover, Addison Lee, Fusion Processing, Oxbotica, and the universities of Nottingham and the West of England – and support the government’s ambition to have self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021 through the modern Industrial Strategy and Future of Mobility Grand Challenge.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: “Self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we move goods and people around the UK. These Industrial Strategy projects and investments are exciting examples of our long-term plan in action – ensuring we build on our strengths to reap the rewards as we accelerate towards our ambition to have autonomous vehicles on UK roads by 2021.

“Autonomous vehicles and their technology will not only revolutionise how we travel, it will open up and improve transport services for those who struggle to access both private and public transport.”

All the projects will include social behavioural research to further explore how driverless technology can seamlessly integrate into society, with the findings applied to the development for future autonomous service models.

Commenting, Future of Mobility Minister, Jesse Norman said: “The UK is a world leader in transport innovation, and our work on the Future of Mobility Grand Challenge will ensure this long continues.

“Automated driving technology is advancing rapidly, and the UK market for connected and autonomous vehicles is forecast to be worth up to £52bn by 2035.

“This pioneering technology will bring significant benefits to people right across the country, improving mobility and safety, and driving growth across the UK.”

The Centre for Connected Autonomous Vehicles was established in 2015 to ensure the UK is a world-leader in the development and testing of self-driving technologies. £250m, match-funded by industry, is being invested by the government, propelling self-driving technology in the UK.

To further strengthen the environment for testing and development of self-driving technologies, £18m is also being awarded to four successful projects through the Meridian 2 and 3 competition.

The Meridian 2 project will develop a digital platform to allow the exchange of data which technology developers and fleet operators can use to deliver better transport systems, while the Meridian 3 projects will focus on developing controlled test environments for highways, and public test environments for highways and rural roads.

Meridian CEO, Daniel Ruiz, said: “This is great news for the UK. Leading technology businesses from Japan, Germany and Spain, alongside homegrown innovators, are all investing significant sums in the UK to accelerate development of self-driving technologies. Their business decisions are an endorsement of our capabilities in this globally competitive sector.”