Self-driving vehicles will help deliver passengers and cargo in and around Sunderland, after two projects based there were awarded a share of £81 million in joint government and industry support for self-driving transport technology. £42 million in government funding is being matched by a further £42 million from industry.
Project V-CAL, being led by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), will run up to 4 zero-emission autonomous HGVs between the Vantec and Nissan Sunderland sites, on private roads where the vehicles will navigate traffic lights, roundabouts, and other road users. This is a major step towards deploying the technology on public roads. The work, in partnership with Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, ANGOKA, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, has been awarded £4 million by government, matched by industry to a total £8 million. The HGVs will operate without any personnel on board but will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup.
The Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will trial three self-driving zero emission Aurrigo Auto-Shuttles, which will transport passengers on public roads between Sunderland Interchange, the Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus. Whilst safety drivers will always be onboard, the project will develop and demonstrate a cyber secure remote supervision protocol, an important step towards commercial deployment. The project has been awarded £3m by the government, matched by industry to a total £6 million and is led by Sunderland City Council in partnership with Aurrigo, Stagecoach, ANGOKA Ltd, Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications.
The projects are two of seven successful projects from around the UK, which form the most advanced set of commercial, self-driving passenger and freight operations anywhere in the world.
The grants, part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme, will help British companies seize early opportunities to develop experimental projects into offerings ready for the market.
Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.
“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”
Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.
“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”
Paul Butler, CEO at the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “The North East region is uniquely placed to develop, test and commercialise Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) projects. It is home to a critical mass of local manufacturing industry, with ambitious growth plans. We are delighted to be awarded V-CAL project funding to be able to scale and expand the initial 5G CAL proof of concept, which ended in 2022, and provide two real industrial use cases for the scale and deployment of connected and autonomous logistics.
“The scale of commercial deployment for CAL is enormous, hundreds of thousands of similar logistic journeys are undertaken on private roads each day within the UK. This is an opportunity to build resilience in our important logistics sector and for the UK to take a leading role in the development and commercialisation of CAL technologies.”
Liz St Louis, director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Leveraging the power of 5G technology and Sunderland’s leading smart city infrastructure, the focus of our ambitious project partners is underpinned by an ethos of leaving no one and nowhere behind.
“Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits across the world and we’re hugely optimistic about a technology-fuelled future, powered by local expertise, right here in Sunderland.”
Almost £600,000 is also being awarded for feasibility studies, looking into how self-driving technology could improve public transport in four parts of the UK. These projects will look into potential routes where automated vehicles could operate exclusively from other traffic, to relieve congestion on the A414 through Hertfordshire and Essex, parts of Eastern Cambridge, Birmingham and Solihull, and Milton Keynes.
Self-driving vehicles could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don’t drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error. Forecasts predict that by 2035, 40% of new UK car sales will have self-driving capabilities, with a total market value for connected and automated mobility worth £41.7 billion to the UK. This could create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology.
The government is also committed to introducing legislation that will enable the safe and timely rollout of self-driving vehicles on UK roads. Under a proposed ‘safety ambition’ for self-driving vehicles to be equivalent in safety to a competent and careful human driver, vehicles will need to meet certain standards to be allowed to ‘self-drive’ on the roads throughout the lifetime of the vehicle. Organisations overseeing self-driving vehicles could face sanctions if standards are not maintained.
SOURCE: BAI Communications