The government has launched a £40 million competition to fund projects focussed on bringing self-driving commercial vehicles such as busses, shuttles, and delivery vans to market. “Funds will help accelerate a new market for the technology, which could be worth £42 billion to the UK economy by 2035 and create 38,000 new skilled jobs,” a government press release says.
As well as creating almost 40,000 new jobs, the ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition aims to make life more convenient for consumers while making journeys “safer, greener and more reliable.”
Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone, who launched the competition on May 23rd, has said “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether it’s 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.” He believes the funding will unlock the potential of the self-driving vehicle industry and help to further develop technology. His goal is to make transport “cleaner, safer and more efficient.”
Transport Minister Trudy Harrison says, “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.” Currently, almost 90% of road traffic accidents are down to human error so we should see this number drastically reduce with the introduction of more and more automated vehicles.
The UK is currently the global leader in self-driving vehicle technology, with automated cars potentially being allowed on the road as early as this year. £1.5 million of the competition funding will be spent on research and exploration for self-driving vehicles also being used for public transport. These vehicles would use separate routes to all other traffic making journeys efficient and potentially cheaper than current modes of transport such as trains. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Executive Mike Hawes says, “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.”
The competition is open to proposals that “must target early commercial self-driving vehicle opportunities and support the UK supply chain to grow and fill technology gaps necessary for their deployment” and winning applicants will receive a portion of the £40 million fund.
Mike Hawes continues, “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.” The motor industry is an exciting time right now, with electronic and self-driving vehicles set to take over our roads in the coming years, and soon the UK will be a safer and greener place to travel.