Self-driving buses, shuttles and delivery vans could hit UK roads
A £40m competition to kick-start commercial self-driving services, such as delivery vehicles and passenger shuttles, has been launched by Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment. The funding could create tens of thousands of skilled jobs across the UK over the next decade.
The ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025, delivering convenience for consumers and making journeys safer, greener and more reliable.
The competition will help bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models to be rolled out nationally and exported globally.
Types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles and pods, as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports.
Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether its by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops, and vital services, or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.
“This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient."
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “We know that self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise the way we travel, making our future journeys cleaner, easier and more reliable. But our absolute priority is harnessing the technology to improve road safety.
“With around 88% of road collisions currently caused by human error, this funding will drive the introduction of new technology to improve travel for all, while boosting economic growth and highly skilled jobs across the nation.”
The competition will cement the UK’s reputation as a global leader in self-driving vehicle technology, unlocking a new industry that could be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2035, potentially creating 38,000 new skilled jobs.
£1.5m of the funding will be used to study and explore using self-driving vehicles as a means of public transport that could provide an alternative to mass transit systems. This includes, for example, using self-driving vehicles on routes separated from other traffic that could be cheaper and more flexible than new railway lines.
The UK government is continuing to develop a comprehensive legal and assurance framework for self-driving vehicles to ensure the safety of the technology. The government announced a Transport Bill in the recent Queen’s Speech that will introduce comprehensive legislation for self-driving vehicles to enable safe and responsible deployment.
The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK – vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation – could be available for people to purchase, lease or rent later this year. Vehicles will undergo rigorous testing and will only be permitted to drive themselves when they have met stringent standards.
The work undertaken by the government and its partners has already ensured that the UK has a proven track record in leading connected and self-driving vehicle innovation, enabling joint public and private investment of £440m.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Executive Mike Hawes said: “Self-driving vehicles offer major benefits to society – improving road safety, supporting new jobs and economic growth, and enabling greater mobility for everyone – so the UK is rightly seeking to be at the forefront of this technological evolution.
"Recent regulatory reforms have helped Britain establish itself as a leader in the rollout out of self-driving passenger vehicles, and today’s announcement is a significant step towards self-driving public transport and goods delivery services becoming a reality. This new funding competition will help drive innovation and, potentially, private investment in UK automotive, ensuring cutting-edge self-driving technology finds a clearer path to UK roads.”