UK aims to capitalize on growth of self-driving tech

August 15, 2018 06:01 CET

The UK government is generously funding any organization that can help the nation achieve its goal of becoming a global leader in autonomous technology and its applications.

Despite a squeeze on public finances as it prepares to leave the European Union, the government is making 150 million pounds (170 million euros) available over five years to help fund pilot studies of self-driving. The country forecasts that the driverless-vehicle market will be worth more than 900 million pounds by 2035 and it wants UK-based pioneers to take the lead on commercializing the technology as well as refining its abilities.

This goal was explicit in the guidelines for companies competing for the latest tranche of cash distributed by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles and announced in June. The CCAV said projects should aim to test and validate the technologies “against a clear user need and public acceptance,” with the aim that viable self-driving businesses could be up and running “from the early 2020s.” Do that and the projects could receive up to 70 percent of their trial costs.

Government-funded projects already running include a fleet of up to 40 self-driving pods that began operating in June in Milton Keynes, southern England. These “final mile” electric pods shuttle people from the town’s train station to a nearby shopping center and operate at speeds of up to 24 kph.

Also receiving government money was Jaguar Land Rover, which is testing self-driving versions of its cars on test tracks and public roads, and Oxbotica, which is running a trial of self-driving cars on the M40 highway running between London and Oxford starting in 2019.

The UK allows testing of self-driving cars on public roads but sets strict guidelines. Cars must keep their steering wheels and pedals and looking at your mobile phone, no matter how advanced the self-driving technology, is strictly forbidden.

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You can reach Nick Gibbs at ngibbs@crain.com.

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