The first use of fully Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CAV) on public roads is set to take place in Oxfordshire, following the announcement of government funding into a trial project.
Innovate UK has announced £2.5m of funding to trial self-driving vehicles in and around Milton Park, a business and science hub near Didcot. The vehicles will travel between private roads at Milton Park and the public roads that link the site with nearby transport services.
The 30-month MultiCAV project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations with different sector backgrounds who are investing in the development of autonomous vehicles. The consortium will be led by FirstGroup.
Despite being relatively close to Didcot Parkway station, most travel to and from Milton Park is currently made in private vehicles. With the site set to expand in the coming years, the MultiCAV consortium aims to build on work already underway to provide the park with long-term, safe and sustainable transport.
Commuters to the site will be able to connect with the self-driving pods from local transport services, while booking and paying for their trip in one single process. It is hoped that by the end of the trial, up to 50% of private vehicle journeys within the business park will switch to using the shared, electric pods.
Minister for Business and Energy, Richard Harrington MP, said: “Through these competitions, we are offering innovative businesses support to take their projects to the next level and help them achieve commercial success. The projects that we are nurturing mean that we are a step closer to securing our place as a world leader in self-driving vehicles.
“This significant investment is a mark of the innovation that is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy. The development of new technologies is a cornerstone of the UK’s world-class science and research and will ensure that we deliver a Britain fit for the future by creating jobs and the skills needed to succeed.”
Innovate UK Chief Executive, Ruth McKernan, said: “The quality and commercial potential of these successful projects demonstrate how UK businesses are developing pioneering CAV technologies. The impact will benefit our thriving automotive industry and the economy as a whole.”
John Birtwistle, project lead for FirstGroup, said: “We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK. By connecting the Milton Park development with the existing regional transport infrastructure, including Great Western Railway trains at Didcot Parkway station, commuters will see a tangible reason to leave their cars at home.
“It’s a huge step towards tackling the problem of congestion on our roads and enabling the sustainable future development of the business park and, potentially, other similar sites in the future.”