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Atkins and Arup join £19m driverless cars trial projects

9 December 2014

Three consortia have been chosen by Innovate UK to run formal trials in four cities to see how driverless cars could be integrated into everyday life across the country.

The chosen cities are: Greenwich, in south-east London, Milton Keynes and Coventry (one project) and Bristol.

Last week’s Autumn Statement included news of £19m to be invested in the three research projects, which will start from January 2015 and are due to last between 18 months and three years.

Innovate UK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board, ran a £10m competition earlier this year, and George Osborne announced that the project would be backed by an additional £9m.

In the Bristol trial, Atkins is part of the Venturer consortium which also includes Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, AXA, Williams Advanced Engineering, Fusion Processing, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), University of Bristol and Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

The trials will bring driverless car research into the real world

In Milton Keynes and Coventry, the UK Autodrive consortium brings together Arup, Ford and Jaguar Land Rover. The team will test both self-drive cars on the road as well as self-driving pods designed for pedestrianised areas.

The Greenwich research project draws in Imperial College, the University of Greenwich, and transport consultant TRL, formerly a division within the Department for Transport.

The automated vehicle technology to be tested will be provided by Phoenix Wings, a company established in Greenwich, and robotics expertise will be provided by GOBOTiX.

The trials will bring driverless car research into the real world and lead to a better understanding of how the technology needs to develop and how people interact with the vehicles. The intention is that it will also help the public get used to seeing the vehicles on the streets.

Nick Jones, lead technologist at Innovate UK, said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and at Innovate UK, we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.

“There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”

Last week's Autumn Statement also included a range of measures due to support technological innovation, including:

£61m to be invested across seven government-backed “catapult” centres to develop technologies and products in innovative areas such as robotics, printable electronics and carbon fibre composites.

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An additional £28m will create the National Formulation Centre, specialising in the development of formulated products such as medicines and chemicals.

Welcoming the support for innovation and R&D announced in the Autumn Statement, chief executive of Innovate UK Iain Gray said: “This Autumn Statement is huge vote of confidence in innovative business up and down the country. The extra support and new centre in the High Value Manufacturing Catapult that Innovate UK are setting up shows just how valuable the Catapults are to business, and how successful they have been in transforming the innovation landscape, and by announcing the cities that won our competition to trial the use of driverless cars we are taking the next step in making the UK a world leader in adopting this exciting new technology.

“The statement also helps innovative businesses’ bottom lines by increasing the tax credits for R&D and looking to make the process easier for small firms, so they can concentrate on what they went into business for, rather than worrying about the tax man.

“By providing this support, business is getting a clear indication that the government wants to help them bring innovative new products to the market, create jobs and growth.”

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