Business Secretary Greg Clark unveiled the competition yesterday (30 March) to kick-start the creation a national cluster of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) testing along the M40 corridor between Birmingham and London.

The programme, matched by a further £100m investment from industry over four years, will allow bids for an initial share of £50m of the test bed funding.

“By 2035 the global market for connected and autonomous vehicle technologies is predicted to be worth £63bn,” Clark said. “Our investment and collaboration with industry to build on our strengths and create a cluster of excellence that will ensure we are at the forefront of its development and perfectly positioned to lead and capitalise on this market.”

Go-to destination

The funding was initially announced by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the Autumn Statement as part of £390m funding to build on the UK’s “competitive advantage in the development of connected, autonomous vehicles”.

The Government insists the cluster will attract overseas investment and deliver a national system that covers all testing requirements for CAV technology, from computer program design to on-road testing.

Clark continued: “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.”

Driving ahead

Car manufacturing businesses are starting to realise the potential for an upcoming autonomous vehicle revolution. At the start of the year, Tesla announced that its Enhanced Autopilot feature – autonomous technology that allows for traffic-aware cruise control – has been rolled-out to all vehicles fitted with second-generation Autopilot hardware.

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo Cars last year revealed that it would be trialling an ambitious autonomous driving (AD) system in the UK in 2017 – the “largest and most extensive AD testing programme on Britain’s streets”.

Meanwhile, Automotive giant Ford last summer announced plans to roll-out fully autonomous vehicles, in high volumes, by 2021 as part of a collaborative commercial mobility service that ventures into the sharing economy market.

George Ogleby

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