The Government has launched a £40 million competition to help fund the latest developments in autonomous commercial vehicles, including self-driving buses, shuttles and delivery vans.
The ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025.
The Government says the competition will help bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models to be rolled out nationally and exported globally.
Transport minister Trudy Harrison said: “We know that self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise the way we travel, making our future journeys cleaner, easier and more reliable. But our absolute priority is harnessing the technology to improve road safety.
“With around 88% of road collisions currently caused by human error, this funding will drive the introduction of new technology to improve travel for all, while boosting economic growth and highly skilled jobs across the nation.”
Funds of £1.5 million will be used to explore using self-driving vehicles as a means of public transport “that could provide an alternative to mass transit systems”, the Government says, adding “this includes, for example, using self-driving vehicles on routes separated from other traffic that could be cheaper and more flexible than new railway lines.”
The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK – vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation – could be available to purchase, lease or rent later this year. Stringent standards must be met before the vehicles are permitted to drive themselves.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Self-driving vehicles offer major benefits to society – improving road safety, supporting new jobs and economic growth, and enabling greater mobility for everyone – so the UK is rightly seeking to be at the forefront of this technological evolution.
“Recent regulatory reforms have helped Britain establish itself as a leader in the rollout out of self-driving passenger vehicles, and today’s announcement is a significant step towards self-driving public transport and goods delivery services becoming a reality.”
Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone said: “This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.”