More than 300 kilometres of roads across the West Midlands are being prepared to trial connected and autonomous vehicles as work starts on a new future mobility testbed.
Phase one of the Midlands Future Mobility test route will extend from Coventry to Birmingham along urban roads, inter-urban and, suburban roads taking in key interchanges such as Birmingham International Airport and the new HS2 Hub in the City.
The route will see autonomous vehicles trialled on urban, rural, suburban and highway roads in a project run by a consortium of companies including WMG, MIRA, AVL, Transport for West Midlands, Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Coventry University and Highways England.
The route has been developed by TfWM in collaboration with Coventry City Council, Birmingham City Council and Solihull Council and provides over 300km of inner city, suburban and rural roads from Coventry to Birmingham, on which to fully assess vehicle performance in a wide range of real world locations and situations.
The first vehicles to be trialled along the route will be connected vehicles which can ‘talk’ to each other and warn of traffic, crashes and other hazards that other connected vehicles may have seen or be heading towards.
The vehicles on the Midlands Future Mobility route will initially have a driver and occasionally a second person monitoring how the vehicles are working. The route includes infrastructure such as smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units, and highly accurate GPS and all testing will be at least as safe as the other vehicles using the roads.
In the longer term, fully autonomous vehicles will be trialled on the route, but these will also be closely monitored by safety operators ready to take over immediately in the event of a problem.
These autonomous vehicles will appear gradually as more and more advanced “Driver Assistance” systems are tested paving the way, such as lane centring and auto-speed limiting technology.
Phase one of the route includes the University of Warwick, Coventry ring road, roads in Meriden, Solihull and central Birmingham around the Jewellery Quarter. Later this year the route will be extended to include rural and highway roads and span up to 350km.
The route itself causes no disruption to drivers or the homes along it, as it uses existing road infrastructure 95% of the time. It will officially open for trials later this year.
Midlands Future Mobility is part of CAM Testbed UK, six core facilities within a three-hour drive offering a comprehensive set of capabilities for the testing and development of connected and automated mobility (CAM) technologies.
Funded by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and coordinated by Zenzic, CAM Testbed UK is able to offer interoperability to customers that is unrivalled worldwide.
John Fox, Project Director, Midlands Future Mobility said: “The West Midlands has a rich history of the automotive industry, and to see it is now progressing into Autonomous vehicles feels somewhat momentous.”
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street, who leads TfWM, said: “I am determined our region will become a global leader in electric and autonomous vehicle technology, as I know we have the skills, facilities, and drive to compete with any other city or region in the world.
“Seeing our roads being used as a test bed for this new technology is both exciting and a step forward, and this vital research will help pave the way to bring key investment and jobs to the region as we look to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.”