£10m of funding from the Government organisation Innovate UK has given the green light for testing driverless cars in four UK conurbations.
George Osborne, chancellor of the exchequer, announced the funding yesterday (3 Dec) as part of the Government’s Autumn Financial Statement.
The trials will take place in Greenwich in South East London, Milton Keynes and Coventry (working together as one project), and Bristol and will run for between 18 and 36 months from January 2015.
The Government announcement says testing driverless cars “in a real-world environment will help lead to greater levels of understanding of these vehicles”, and will also “allow the public to accept how the vehicles will fit into everyday life”.
The funding comes through the Government’s competition, ‘Introducing driverless cars to UK roads’. The aim is to establish the UK as the global hub for the research, development and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies.
Nick Jones, from Innovate UK, said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.
“There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”
In Greenwich, the GATEway project is described as “a model for potential implementation of automated transport systems in London, the UK and beyond”.
Led by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the GATEway project will create “interoperable, scalable testing environments, protocols and standards guidance”. Testing will include automated electric shuttle vehicles, a demonstration of tele-operated driving and a simulated 3D model of the Greenwich peninsula.
In Milton Keynes and Coventry, the UK Autodrive programme will involve the demonstration of road-going cars and lightweight self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised spaces. It will be delivered by the City of Milton Keynes, working in association with the City of Coventry.
The VENTURER consortium in Bristol will investigate the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and explore how the public react to such vehicles.
The project will aim to “deepen understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for our economy and society”.