The UK government has awarded £20 million (€26 million) in funding to driverless car research, cementing its bid to become a world leader in the emerging field.
Announced by business secretary Sajid Javid in a visit to a test facility in the West Midlands, the funding will be drawn from the £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund and go towards developing “enhanced communication between vehicles and roadside infrastructure” across eight pioneering projects.
Mr Javid said: “Our cars of the future will be equipped with the technologies that will make getting from A to B safer, faster, and cleaner. They will alert drivers of accidents ahead and be able to receive information from their surroundings about hazards, increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”
Patrick McLoughlin, the transport secretary, called the funding a “landmark moment” that will allow the UK “to lead the way in the testing of connected and autonomous vehicles”.
“[These projects] will also bring great benefits to our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment,” he added.
In one of the schemes, a cross-industry consortium that counts Jaguar Land Rover, Siemens and Huawei among its members will equip over 40 miles (64 km) of UK roads with so-called “talking car technologies” – solutions meant to cut traffic jams, improve safety and even provide new entertainment options for passengers.
Another project seeks to explore how driverless shuttles might be used to improve urban accessibility to disabled and visually impaired people. One stakeholder is Heathrow Enterprises, which already uses autonomous pods to shuttle passengers to and from the UK’s largest airport.
According to the government, the intelligent mobility market will be worth £900 billion annually by 2025. It has the potential to generate around £51 billion for the UK economy, ministers claim, creating 320,000 jobs and saving 2,500 lives.