2015 start for UK driverless car trials

Up to three cities in the UK will be selected as part of a £10 million competition to host trials of driverless cars, shared Business Secretary Vince Cable today. He said the government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location. The trials will get underway in January 2015 and are expected to last between 18 and 36 months. Ministers have also launched a review into current road regulations in order to ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.

Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver.

Speaking at vehicle engineering consultancy, test and research facility, MIRA, where he tested a driverless car with the Science Minister Greg Clark, Vince Cable said: “The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as a pioneer in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects. Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.

“Through the government’s industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs,” added Cable.

“Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network – they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2,” commented Transport Minister Claire Perry. “We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfil this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads.”

“Britain is brilliantly placed to lead the world in driverless technology. It combines our strengths in cars, satellites, big data and urban design; with huge potential benefits for future jobs and for the consumer,” said Science Minister Greg Clark.

Iain Gray CEO of the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, said: “This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society. The ability to test driverless cars at scale, when married to the UK’s unique strengths in transport technologies and urban planning, will also attract further investment, helping to establish new design and manufacturing supply chains, driving forward UK economic growth.”

The driverless cars competition is being funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport, in partnership with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. Successful projects must be business-led and need to demonstrate close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, supply chain companies and manufacturers.

“We welcome the announcement made by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable today at our site in encouraging further advancements and UK engineering excellence,” commented MIRA’s chief commercial and technical officer, Dr. Geoff Davis. “Our ten years of experience developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defence and security as well as cooperative systems in road transport applications means we are already working on a number of projects that explore the potential of connected and cooperative driverless cars.”

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