The government has launched a £20m competitive fund for collaborative research and development into driverless vehicles, along with a code of practice for testing the vehicles.
The £20m competition is part of £100m for research into intelligent mobility announced by the chancellor in the spring 2015 Budget. The government says the measures will “put the UK at the forefront of the intelligent mobility market, expected to be worth £900bn by 2025”.
The government is inviting bidders to put forward proposals on topics such as safety, reliability, how vehicles can communicate with each other and the environment around them, and how driverless vehicles can help give an ageing population greater independence. Successful bidders will match fund projects with their own money.
Sajid Javid, business secretary, said: “To boost productivity Britain will need to capitalise on new technologies like driverless vehicles.
“Our world beating automotive industry, strengths in innovation and light touch regulatory approach to testing driverless technology combine to make the UK market competitive and an attractive destination for investors.”
The code of practice is designed to provide industry with the framework to safely trial cars in real-life scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist. It was developed in consultation with members of the GATEWay, Venturer and UK Autodrive consortia.
Professor Nick Reed, technical lead of the GATEWay project and academy director at TRL, said: “Since the launch of the GATEway project in February, the TRL-led consortium has been working hard to lay the necessary foundations for the planned autonomous vehicle trials.
“We want to make sure that the trials are optimally developed and delivered, so the first public vehicle trials won’t take place until 2016.
“But now that the new code of practice has given the green light for testing on UK roads, it won’t be long before you see one of our self-driving vehicles out in public again.”
Andrew Jones, transport minister, said: “Our code of practice clearly shows that the UK is in the best position when it comes to testing driverless cars and embracing the motoring of the future.”
The DfT and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have established a new joint policy unit, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (C-CAV), to co-ordinate government policy on driverless cars and connected technology.
C-CAV is currently working on a range of technological developments, including plans to test new roadside communication technology to improve traffic flow and safety through ‘connected corridors’. This would pilot technology that will provide drivers with useful journey and safety information.