UK launches £40m competition to accelerate autonomous commercial vehicle development

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A £40m UK government-funded competition to help bring to market the latest developments in autonomous commercial vehicles has been launched today.

The Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025.

The competition aims to help bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models can be developed and rolled out nationally as well as exported globally.

Types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles and pods, as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports.

UK investment minister Lord Grimstone said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether its by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops, and vital services, or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.

“This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.

According to UK transport minister Trudy Harrison, the funding will help accelerate a new market for the technology, which could be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2035 and create 38,000 new skilled jobs.

“With around 88% of road collisions currently caused by human error, this funding will drive the introduction of new technology to improve travel for all, while boosting economic growth and highly skilled jobs across the nation,” said Harrison.

Some £1.5m will be used to study and explore using self-driving vehicles as a means of public transport that could provide an alternative to mass transit systems. This includes, for example, using self-driving vehicles on routes separated from other traffic that could be cheaper and more flexible than new railway lines.

The UK government is continuing to develop a legal and assurance framework for self-driving vehicles to ensure the safety of the technology. It announced a Transport Bill in the recent Queen’s Speech that will introduce legislation for self-driving vehicles to enable safe and responsible deployment.

The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK – vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System Regulation – could be available for people to purchase, lease or rent later this year, but only following rigorous testing and if they meet stringent standards.

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