Chancellor George Osborne said last week that he wanted Britain to lead the way in driverless technology. With trials already underway in London, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes, Osborne announced in the Budget a further £100 million of funding for research and development into “intelligent mobility”.
The research will focus on enhancing the development of driverless car technology and the systems required to make these vehicles a reality, such as telecommunications. The government funds will be matched by a similar commitment from the car industry.
According to the Financial Times, trials will be carried out to establish how driverless vehicles could communicate with each other and with the transport infrastructure around them.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said this investment would “ensure the UK stays at the cutting edge and is well placed to profit from the growing market for high-tech vehicles of the future – creating jobs and driving economic growth.”
The extra funding was also welcomed by Steve Yianni, chief executive of Transport Systems Catapult, which is overseeing the trial of driverless pods in Milton Keynes. He said it would help the UK to consolidate its position as a leading place to trial and demonstrate driverless technologies.
As well as the investment in driverless technology over the next five years, Osborne pledged to invest £40 million into research related to the Internet of Things, focusing on healthcare, social care and smart cities.
“This is the next stage of the information revolution, connecting up everything from urban transport to medical devices to household appliances,” the chancellor explained.
That message was underlined by roads minister John Hayes, who said in a speech to think tank ResPublica last week that the UK’s roads, bridges and tunnels were “joining the Internet of Things” – enabling wireless connections between connected vehicles and their environment and providing information about hazards, weather and traffic flow.