The Government is to make £1.5 million available for a project that will test driverless cars in a pedestrianised area for the first time.
The vehicles, known as ‘pods’, will be able to carry two people and will run on designated pathways in Milton Keynes city centre.
By 2015, it is planned that an initial batch of 20 driver-operated pods will run on lanes separated from pedestrians. By 2017, 100 fully autonomous pods, which will use sensors to avoid obstacles, will be running on pathways alongside people.
The early collaborators on the project are the engineering consultancy firm Arup, Transport Systems Catapult, The Automotive Council, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
Announcing the scheme while visiting Northampton, Dr Vince Cable, business secretary, said: “Driverless cars are an invention that has the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for, as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety.
“The car industry has gone from strength to strength – with one vehicle rolling off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds. But we must look at the long-term challenges and opportunities to ensure the sector continues to succeed and grow.”
The pods pilot is part of a £75m funding package to “build cars of the future” through which the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is challenging automotive companies to “come up with engine technologies that will make cars more efficient and change the way we drive”.
Click here to read the full Government press statement.