The future of motoring will accelerate into view this year in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and the London borough of Greenwich.
Driver less cars are to be tested in all those locations in trials that will put the UK at the forefront of automated vehicle technology.
Government funding of £19m will allow three separate trials to take place: one in Bristol, one in Greenwich and one split between Coventry and Milton Keynes. The trials, lasting from 18 to 36 months, will test different aspects of self-driving technology. All will take place away from public roads, though each is aimed at making automated vehicles on Britain’s roads a reality.
The trials will use semi-autonomous cars that can drive themselves for periods of the time with a human driver behind the wheel, as well as lightweight self-driving pods designed for low-speed shuttle services. The three projects will be linked by an external monitor who will coordinate all the data.
“We’re looking to start our first trial with automated shuttles with members of the public in May,” said Dr Nick Reed from the Transport Research Lab (TRL), leader of the consortium running the Greenwich trials. He added: “You’ve got the cream of UK transport organizations distilled into these three projects and each with its own twist on what should be tested.”
The Greenwich trials – named the Gateway project – will involve self-driving shuttles being tested on closed roads and in simulation facilities. The project is led by the TRL with contributions from the Royal College of Art, Imperial College London and the University of Greenwich along with General Motors, the AA and RAC.