Government launches fund to test driverless vehicles along M40 corridor
The government plans to create a cluster of excellence in
connected and autonomous vehicle testing along the M40 corridor between
Birmingham and London.
The test bed programme forms part of the government’s
industrial strategy commitment in the 2016 Autumn Statement to develop a world-class
connected and autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure.
The programme will use some of the UK’s existing
connected and autonomous vehicle testing centres to create a concentrated
cluster of testing facilities in the UKs automotive heartland in the West
Midlands, including; Coventry, Birmingham, Milton Keynes as well as Oxford and
By creating a coherent national cluster, government and
industry will be able to rapidly accelerate the development of connected and
autonomous vehicle technology in the UK, grow intellectual capital in the
field, attract overseas investment and create a national
ecosystem that covers all testing requirements from computer
program design to on road testing, according to Whitehall.
The announcement from Business Secretary Greg Clark as he
launched the first competition to access funding from the government’s £100
investment programme supporting the creation of the test facilities for
connected and autonomous vehicles at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and
Traders’ Connected Conference in London.
In his speech to an international audience of more than
400 industry leaders from the automotive and technology sectors he outlined how
the programme, which is being match funded by industry, to take the total spend
up to £200 million over four years, was being launched as a grant through a
series of funding competitions.
The first competition will allow bids for an initial
share of £55 million of the test bed funding.
Mr Clark said: “By 2035 the global market for connected
and autonomous vehicle technologies is predicted to be worth £63 billion. Our
investment and collaboration with industry to build on our strengths and create
a cluster of excellence will ensure we are at the forefront of its development
and perfectly positioned to lead and capitalise on this market.
“The test bed is an example of the industrial strategy the
government is committed to delivering. At its heart is a world class science,
research and innovation base which will continue to offer high-skill,
well-paying jobs, ensuring the UK delivers an economy that works for everyone
and cement itself as one of the world’s ‘go-to’ destinations for testing driverless
car technology, now and in the future.”
The first phase of the competition will support a number
of projects divided into four different streams covering a range of
environments for testing connected autonomous vehicles including:
Public test facilities in a complex, real-world
urban or city environment
A controlled test environment representative of
driving in a city
A realistic and controlled high-speed, test
The launch of the test bed funding competition followed a
call for evidence by the Centre of Connected and Autonomous Vehicles in May
2016 into how the UK could integrate and strengthen its connected and
autonomous vehicle testing facilities and to consider the case for a test bed
to provide a focus for the industry.