The UK government is investing £20 million into researching and developing driverless cars, with eight pilot projects taking place around the country.
The funding, the first to come from the government’s £100 million Intelligent Mobility Fund, will be used to help improve the communications systems between vehicles and the urban environment.
The schemes range from developing autonomous shuttles to carry visually-impaired passengers using advanced sensors, to simulation trials for autonomous pods.
Trials of driverless cars are currently being worked on in Bristol, Coventry, Milton Keynes and in Greenwich, London. The first driverless cars on the streets of London will resemble the electric passenger shuttles used at Heathrow Airport.
The autonomous vehicle industry is estimated to be worth £900 billion per year globally by 2025.
Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Our cars of the future will be equipped with the technologies that will make getting from A to B safer, faster, and cleaner.
“They will alert drivers of accidents ahead and be able to receive information from their surroundings about hazards, increasing the safety of drivers, passengers and pedestrians.”
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “These projects will help profoundly change the way we travel within years, transforming our roads by making travel a simpler experience for drivers, reducing accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly.
“They will also bring great benefits to our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment.”
Roland Meister, head of Transport at the UK’s innovation experts Innovate UK, added:
“The UK is rapidly becoming one of the best places in the world for companies to develop their Intelligent Mobility business.
“Driven by our work with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles this competition has connected together the UK’s fantastic automotive industry, the research base, the insurance sector, public authorities with high growth businesses working in human behavioural science, telematics, information technology, communications, simulation, advanced sensor systems and machine learning.
Driverless cars, Big Data concerns
Through the funding and connections Innovate UK provides we are getting Intelligent Mobility ideas off the drawing board and into our lives, making us more productive, creating jobs, growth and exports.”
Following the announcement, Jonathan Hewett, head of strategy at Octo Telematics told Internet of Business that the car is increasingly becoming the home of connectivity.
“The car is rapidly evolving from a simple mode of transport to a personalised information hub,” he said, citing BI Intelligence figures which indicate that there will be 220 million connected cars on the road globally by 2020.
“With the proliferation of connected cars, computers will increasingly have the ability to control every function of our vehicles. This is a hugely exciting opportunity for car owners – in terms of insurance alone, the ability to collate and analyse real-time driver and vehicle data is enabling some of the world’s leading insurers to reduce connected users’ insurance premiums by up to 30 percent.
“The need to protect data in the shift to connected, driverless and autonomous cars is implicit and those behind the connected car movement must operate to the highest levels of system security standards.
“A user-focused, security-first approach to every layer of the connected car will be essential.”
More information on the announcement can be found here.