Business minister Richard Harrington has announced that the UK Government is inviting companies to bid for £30m (US$40m) of new funding to support the development of self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads, as part of its Industrial Strategy, which is aimed at developing a transport system for the future.
Funded through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) and Meridian, the government’s unique hub for testing autonomous technology, the two competitions see government and industry jointly investing in UK businesses to help realize the government’s ambition to see fully self-driving vehicles on the country’s roads by 2021. The latest funding launch builds on the success of an earlier competition round that saw four UK projects awarded a total of £51m (US$68.4m) to test the speed, safety, and potential opportunities for delivering connected and autonomous (CAV) innovation.
The next round of the competition is expected to benefit drivers, as up to £5m (US$6.7m) will be awarded to projects developing and testing autonomous parking technology, which will allow self-driving cars to park in a range of different environments without human intervention. The new finance will also fund two public-testing sites for self-driving cars in urban settings, the first of their kind in Europe, which will help ensure that CAVs become a normal feature on UK city streets.
The two new funding competitions cover finance for seven different projects that will be delivered by Innovate UK. Firstly, the Meridian 2 Competition, which will see £5m (US$6.7m) awarded for one data exchange capability that will provide a commercial marketplace for CAV data from vehicles. The data will be accessible and shareable but privacy and security will be maintained. The asset will enable technology developers, fleet operators and road network owners to deliver better social, environmental, and cost-effective transport systems and underpin new business models.
The Meridian 3 Competition involves up to £25m (US$33.5m) of funding for as many as six infrastructure projects to develop CAV testing infrastructure for automated parking and interurban automated driving on rural roads and highways, with the funding subdivided into:
• Interurban (controlled) – up to £4m (US$5.3m) to support one controlled test environment project;
• Interurban (public) – up to £16m (US$21.5m) to support up to two continuous public test environment projects;
• Parking (controlled) – up to £2m (US$2.6m) to support one controlled parking test facility project;
• Parking (public) – up to £3m (US$4m) to support one or two public parking test environment projects.
“Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionize the way we move people and goods across the UK. They also support our ambition for a cleaner, greener future as part of our modern Industrial Strategy,” said Harrington at the funding launch. “The UK is already leading the way in developing this technology, and today’s funding will bring self-driving vehicles one step closer to becoming a normal feature on UK roads and could, in time, make learning to parallel park a thing of the past.”
Graham Hoare, chairman of the Automotive Council Technology Group, commented, “We welcome the latest developments at Meridian Mobility Technology, the UK’s CAV Development Capability. Meridian continues the acceleration of the UK’s CAV development facilities with the announcement of important partnerships as part of the latest outcomes of the Wave 2&3 TestBed program. These new capabilities will complement our strengthening UK test capability with the advantage of a ‘one stop shop’ mindset for the industry.”