Business Secretary Vince Cable said the Government was ‘challenging’ automotive companies to come up with technologies that “ultimately change the way we drive”.

The Government said the £75m fund will enable businesses to make and test low carbon technologies that will “keep the UK at the forefront of engine design and help safeguard up to 30,000 jobs in engine production”.

The money will fund pilot projects of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which was announced in July, and will channel £1bn investment from Government and industry to fund the development of new technologies over the next 10 years.

During a visit to Northampton yesterday, Vince Cable also announced £1.5m for a project that will test driverless cars in a pedestrianised area for the first time.

The ‘pods’ will be able to carry 2 people and will be run on designated pathways in Milton Keynes city centre. It is planned that in 2015, an initial batch of 20 pods will be driver-operated and will run on lanes separated from pedestrians.

By mid-2017, 100 pods that are fully autonomous will be running on pathways alongside people and will use sensors to avoid obstacles, the Government said.

The early collaborators on the project are engineering consultancy firm Arup, Transport Systems Catapult, The Automotive Council, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities.

Cable said: “By 2050, very few – if any – new cars will be powered solely by the traditional internal combustion engines, so it is important that the UK car industry is at the cutting edge of low carbon technologies.

“The Advanced Propulsion Centre, launched as part of our Industrial Strategy, will help to position the UK as a leading innovator while securing jobs and strengthening supply chains.

Driverless cars are another invention that has the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for, as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety,” added Cable.

The Government’s announcements came on the day the Deputy Prime Minister challenged industry and experts to put forward innovative ways to invest £500m to encourage more people to choose vehicles with the lowest possible emissions.

Leigh Stringer

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