Driverless car trials move up a gear

July 22 2015  

Driverless car trials move up a gear
Testing of driverless cars could begin on UK roads as early as next year following publication of a code of practice by the Government for trialling the technology.
 
The code – which sets out a range of guidance and requirements to ensure safe testing – was launched alongside a £20M competitive fund for further research and development into autonomous vehicles.
 
“This is brilliant news,” said Transport Systems Catapult communications manager Simon White. “The code of practice opens the way for on road trials of driverless cars and proves that UK legislation allows them to go ahead.”
 
Transport research body TRL’s Nick Reed, who is technical lead on the GATEway project to test autonomous vehicles in Greenwich (pictured), added: “Much research and development is required before driverless cars become commonplace on our streets, but the launch of the code of practice brings this vision a step closer.” 
 
He explained that the project launched in February and the cars have been tested off the public highway. “But now that the new code of practice has given the green light for testing on UK roads, it won’t be long before you see one of our self driving vehicles out in public.” The project’s first on road trials are likely to take place in 2016, he added.
 
Government is now inviting bidders to receive portions of its £20M fund, with proposals sought in areas such as safety, reliability, and vehicle communication systems. Successful bidders will be expected to match-fund projects with their own money.
 
The Transport Systems Catapult’s Mr White said: “I think there will be a lot of interest in the competition. The intelligent mobility sector is expected to be worth £900Bn in 10 years’ time and this is an ideal chance for companies with innovative ideas to get the financial backing they need.”
 
The Catapult is a partner in UK Autodrive, which is testing driverless car technology in Milton Keynes and Coventry. Mr White said the consortium was aiming to start trials of low speed autonomous vehicles on public footpaths before the end of the year, with on road driverless car trials likely to begin “within the next couple of years”.
 
The Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills have also announced the establishment of a ‘Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles’, which will co-ordinate Government policy on driverless cars.
 
(Photo: Transport Research Laboratory)

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