Government fund supports driverless vehicle research

The government has announced a major investment in research and development of driverless vehicles.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid and Transport Minister Andrew Jones said that the £20 million government fund will be matched by industry, supporting new research and development into intelligent transport technologies.

Bidders are invited 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.

This investment is part of the £100 million for research into intelligent mobility announced by the Chancellor in the Spring 2015 Budget. It will help put the UK at the forefront of the intelligent mobility market, which is expected to be worth as much as £900 billion by 2025, ministers said.

The government has also launched a new code of practice for driverless cars, providing a framework for the industry to safely trial cars in real-life scenarios on public roads. Among other things, this states that driverless cars are required to have a backup driver who holds a UK driving licence and can take control of the vehicle at any time.

Tests of autonomous vehicles have already begun in several cities across the UK, but at present these are mostly restricted to pedestrianised areas rather than public roads.

The code of practice also states that automated vehicle systems need to have appropriate levels of security to protect against the risk of unauthorised access by hackers.

Transport Minister Andrew Jones commented:

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 new policy unit, the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (C-CAV), will co-ordinate government policy on driverless cars and connected technology. It is already working on a range of technological developments, including plans to test new roadside communication technology to improve traffic flow and safety through ‘connected corridors’, providing drivers with useful journey and safety information.

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