Britain to become a global driverless vehicle centre

Government backs driverless technology with £20 million boost

Eight projects have been awarded a total of £20 million in funding to research and develop enhanced communication between vehicles and roadside infrastructure or urban information systems, including new ‘talking car technologies’, Business Secretary Sajid Javid announced on a visit to the autonomous vehicles test bed at MIRA in Nuneaton on 1 February 2016.

The projects are the first to be funded from the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund. They range from developing autonomous shuttles to carry visually-impaired passengers using advanced sensors and control systems, to new simulation trials for autonomous pods to increase uptake and improve real-world trials.

In addition to the eight collaborative research and development projects, the Business Secretary also announced 14 feasibility studies to identify where additional data could help the UK CAV market develop further.

Trials to test driverless cars on the streets are currently being worked on in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, and Greenwich. Autonomous vehicles are also being used in Heathrow to shuttle passengers, although these are currently on designated tracks.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our cars of the future will be equipped with the technologies that will make getting from A to B safer, faster, and cleaner. They will alert drivers of accidents ahead and be able to receive information from their surroundings about hazards, increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.

“Britain is a world-leader in research and development in such innovative technologies which improve lives and create opportunity for all. That is why this government has protected the £6 billion science budget and is providing up to £20 million for these projects.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “These projects will help profoundly change the way we travel within years, transforming our roads by making travel a simpler experience for drivers, reducing accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly. They will also bring great benefits to our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment.”

Roland Meister, Head of Transport at the UK’s innovation experts Innovate UK, said: “The UK is rapidly becoming one of the best places in the world for companies to develop their Intelligent Mobility business. Driven by our work with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles this competition has connected together the UK’s fantastic automotive industry, the research base, the insurance sector, public authorities with high growth businesses working in human behavioural science, telematics, information technology, communications, simulation, advanced sensor systems and machine learning.”

Chris Reeves, Commercial Manager, Future Transport Technologies and Intelligent Mobility at Horiba MIRA, said: “This project will pave the way for the development and deployment of connected autonomous vehicles in the UK and help the industry address global challenges relating to safety, efficiency and convenience. It will help establish the UK as a global centre of excellence and drive forward the commercialisation of connected vehicles, and deliver a major wealth creation and inward investment opportunity for the UK.

Britain uniquely placed for driverless development

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Britain is uniquely placed to become a global leader in connected and autonomous vehicle development, technology that has the potential to generate around £51 billion for the UK economy, save 2,500 lives and generate 320,000 jobs. Today’s (1 February 2016) first allocation of the government’s funding pledge, which will be matched by industry, is an important first step on the road to realising that opportunity.

All the projects have received financial backing from industry in addition to government funding, and are backed by leading automotive businesses, engineering firms, IT specialists, universities and local authorities. The UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment (UKCITE) project, which the Business Secretary will visit today, includes Horiba MIRA, Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens, and Vodafone Group amongst others.

Jens Nielsen, head of Nordics & UK at NetBooster, a digital performance marketing agency commented: “Having the first driverless cars on the streets of London represents a monumental breakthrough for the automotive industry. Driverless electrical cars, combined with fully digital car-sharing platforms, will not only revolutionise the car industry, but also the way in which we transport ourselves in the very near future. This technology-driven development is further proof that every industry will soon face a full digital transformation – in fact it is already here.

“All businesses need to think about how they will communicate with their customers in order to drive greater engagement and create dialogue one a one-to-one basis. A driverless car, for example, will offer fantastic opportunities to do location-based marketing and will also be a huge generator of data, which can then be fed back to the brand owners for further marketing and consumer engagement. Businesses need to start preparing for opportunities like these now by mapping out a clear digital strategy that will enable them to remain competitive.”

Driverless Autobahns?

Interesting as the British news is, the UK is not alone in its pursuit of the future driverless vehicle market. The news that London’s first driverless cars are en route to the nation’s capital, so to speak, follows reports that the German government is considering its own driverless vehicle proposals, including a driverless autobahn. Indeed Germany has the stated aim of reaching 1 million e-cars on the road by 2020.

On Wednesday 20 January 2016 the so-called PEGASUS research project, which aims to set out more cost-effective and safer test methods for automated driving including motorway tests at speeds of 130 km/h, began.

The project will run for 40 months, with government funding of 16.3 million euros, and brings together 14 industry partners, most of them from Germany’s innovative SME landscape, two scientific research institutes and a technical inspection company.

“Automated driving is a crucial driver for innovation and value creation, playing a significant role in automobile location Germany,” said State Secretary for Economics and Energy Matthias Machnig, adding: “We need these procedures and standards in testing in order to maintain our position at the forefront of the automobile, supplier and service-provider industries.”

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