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Government launches fund to test driverless vehicles along M40 corridor

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 London.  

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 environment  

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.