The government has launched a code of practice and £20 million funding for research and development into driverless vehicles.
The measures announced by Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Transport Minister Andrew Jones are expected to put the UK at the forefront of the intelligent mobility market, expected to be worth £900 billion by 2025.
Javid said: “To boost productivity Britain will need to capitalise on new technologies like driverless vehicles, securing high skilled jobs for those who want to work hard and get on, and contributing to a more prosperous future for the whole of the country.
“Our world beating automotive industry, strengths in innovation and light touch regulatory approach to testing driverless technology combine to make the UK market competitive and an attractive destination for investors.”
Jones added: “Driverless cars will bring great benefits to our society and economy and I want the UK to lead the way in developing this exciting technology. Our code of practice clearly shows that the UK is in the best position when it comes to testing driverless cars and embracing the motoring of the future. We now look forward to working with industry to make this a reality.
A decade ago Britain’s car industry was in decline, but it is now the most productive amongst the major European producers. New technology can help it improve its productivity and competitiveness in the future.”
The government wants bidders to put forward proposals in areas such as safety, reliability, how vehicles can communicate with each other and the environment around them and how driverless vehicles can help give an ageing population greater independence. Successful bidders will match fund projects with their own money.
The code of practice provides industry with the framework they need to safely trial cars in real-life scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist.
The Department for Transport and Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) have established the new joint policy unit, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (C-CAV), which will co-ordinate government policy on driverless cars and connected technology. C-CAV is currently working on a range of new technological developments, including plans to test new roadside communication technology to improve traffic flow and safety through ‘connected corridors’. This would pilot technology that will provide drivers with useful journey and safety information.
Professor Nick Reed, technical lead of the GATEWay project and academy director at TRL, said: “Much research and development is required before driverless cars become commonplace on our streets, but the launch of the Code of Practice brings this vision a step closer. It sets the scene for the safe evaluation and development of highly and fully automated vehicles for years to come and is another example of how the UK is leading the charge in this area. Combined with the £20m funding and the launch of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, the UK is now firmly positioned at the centre of future mobility.
“Since the press launch of the GATEway project in February, the TRL-led consortium has been working hard to lay the necessary foundations for the planned autonomous vehicle trials. We want to make sure that the trials are optimally developed and delivered, so the first public vehicle trials won’t take place until 2016. But now that the new Code of Practice has given the green light for testing on UK roads, it won’t be long before you see one of our self-driving vehicles out in the public again.”
Visitors to last year’s Seeing is Believing were able to see self-driving cars in action.