Autonomous Village opens to boost development of driverless cars

A new facility for testing self-driving cars has opened in Bedfordshire.

Developers of driverless technology will be able to take advantage of the UK’s first so-called Autonomous Village at Millbrook Proving Ground, which has been used for vehicle testing since the 1960s.

The Millbrook-Culham urban test bed includes more than 40 miles of secure tracks, a new simulator and a private mobile network.

These will help manufacturers, start-up firms and academics fine-tune software, sensors, data collection and security systems for self-driving cars.

Millbrook’s testing village is one of six sites across the UK coordinated by automated vehicle company Zenzic to receive a total of £51 million worth of Government funding.

Zenzic chief executive Daniel Ruiz described the facilities as “world class” and claimed they will enable ideas to be taken from conception to development “all within a three-hour drive”.

The opening of the Bedfordshire site was marked by Future of Transport Minister George Freeman launching a new regime to ensure vehicles are designed to be safe and secure before their testing and deployment on UK roads.

He said: “Self-driving vehicles can offer significant rewards for the UK’s economy, road safety and accessibility. We are determined to lead in the testing and development of safe autonomous transport.

“This is new terrain, and with our national expertise the UK is well-placed to blaze the trail globally by developing a global benchmark for assuring the safety and security of this exciting technology.”

Road safety charity Brake’s director of campaigns Joshua Harris said: “Connected and autonomous vehicles have enormous potential to eliminate driver error and help put an end to the daily tragedy of deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

“The technology and its potential is hugely exciting but it’s critical that these vehicles are robustly tested for safety before allowing them on our roads.

“We support the leading role being played by UK Government on this important agenda for safe mobility and the safety assurance regime will undoubtedly be fundamental to its future success.”

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