UK autonomous vehicle investment boosts testing facilities

22 November 2018

22 November 2018

The UK’s self-driving technology sector has been boosted through investment by leading companies from Japan, Germany and Spain alongside UK innovators and the country’s government.

Four consortia have been awarded funding totalling £18 million (€20.3 million) to deliver new self-driving technology testing and development facilities in the UK. These facilities, based in the Midlands, are part of a growing integrated ecosystem that is coordinated by Meridian, the hub designed to safely accelerate self-driving technology in the UK and to support the Government’s Industrial Strategy goal of having fully operating autonomous vehicles on UK roads by 2021.

Last year the Government awarded grants that match investment by consortia delivering a range of testing environments. These include controlled and semi-controlled testing at Millbrook and RACE (Bedfordshire and Oxfordshire), a limit handling facility run by the Tic-IT consortium led by HORIBA MIRA (Leicestershire), and public urban test facilities run by the Midlands Future Mobility consortium led by Warwick Manufacturing Group (Coventry and Birmingham) and the Smart Mobility Living Lab: London led by TRL (Greenwich and Stratford).

This additional investment adds highways, rural and parking to the UK’s testing facilities, along with a commercially-focused data exchange to maximise the benefits of connected vehicles. It is possible to develop and prove first/last mile delivery between cities and rural communities, safety-critical systems, new parking services, and new technologies to measure monitor and control traffic. This can be done at whatever scale is needed to deliver the benefits from connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) sooner.

The investment in these new facilities from companies based not just at home, but also in Germany, Spain and Japan is a clear endorsement of the UK strategy and its international appeal.

The announcement adds a further 6km of private testing ground at Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire and uses 259km of public rural and highway road, making the Meridian testing cluster a network of nearly 600km in total.

′This is great news for the UK.  Leading technology businesses from Japan, Germany and Spain, alongside homegrown innovators, are all investing significant sums in the UK to accelerate development of self-driving technologies’ said Daniel Ruiz, CEO of Meridian. ′Their business decisions are an endorsement of our capabilities in this globally competitive sector.’

Business Secretary Greg Clark added: ′Self-driving cars will revolutionise the way we move goods and people around the UK. These Industrial Strategy projects and investments are exciting examples of our long-term plan in action – ensuring we build on our strengths to reap the rewards as we accelerate towards our ambition to have autonomous vehicles on UK roads by 2021

′Autonomous vehicles and their technology will not only revolutionise how we travel; it will open up and improve transport services for those who struggle to access both private and public transport.        

′The UK is building on its automotive heritage and strengths to develop the new vehicles and technologies, and from 2021 the public will get to experience the future for themselves.’