Driverless cars coming to UK roads

Driverless cars announcement
Rui Vieira/PA WIRE

Four areas in England have been named as testing grounds for autonomous vehicles, the quango Innovate UK has announced.

Following chancellor George Osborne's Autumn Statement, in which he announced an additional £9 million funding for the study – taking the total investment up to £19 million – a series of trials will occur in Bristol, Greenwich, Coventry and Milton Keynes.

Companies involved, including Ford, Jaguar Land Rover and engineering consultancy Arup, will be providing additional funding as the project progresses.

The areas named will each handle a different set of driverless car trials. Bristol is to host the Venturer consortium, which aims to assess the impact of the vehicles on traffic congestion and road safety. Its members, which include insurance provider Axa, will also study public reaction to the emerging technology as well as considering the legal implications of introducing self-driving cars to British roads.

Greenwich meanwhile, is gearing up to run the Transport For London backed Gateway scheme, which will carry out physical tests of automated passenger shuttles and automatic valet parking, with the aid of motoring groups the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), the AA and RAC.

Rob Wallis, chief executive of TRL, told the BBC: "The combination of TRL's independent expertise; robust, reliable testing protocols and driving simulation facilities alongside the diverse and high calibre qualities of our consortium means we can safely demonstrate automated vehicles to build acceptance and trust in this revolutionary technology."

Coventry and Milton Keynes will be sharing the UK Autodrive programme, which will involve car manufacturers testing self-driving cars on closed roads as well as self-driving pods designed for use in pedestrian-only zones.

This programme will also look into the technologies that would need building into the roads and other infrastructure to allow autonomous vehicles to operate effectively.

The tests, which begin on January 1, will last up to 36 months.