This morning - during a visit to MIRA where he was brave enough to have a ride in a driverless car - Business Secretary Vince Cable (alongside the Science Minister Greg Clark) made two significant announcements in relation to autonomous vehicle research, fulfilling commitments made by Government to support the development of driverless car technologies in the UK.
Firstly, a fast tracked Technology Strategy Board competition is to make available up to £10m of funding for up to three UK cities to host a driverless cars trial on, at least in part, public roads.
Emphasising that this is an open competition, Mr Cable encouraged cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location.
The second announcement was to announce a forthcoming review that examine requirements for vehicles to comply with construction and safety regulations, traffic laws and relevant aspects of the Highway Code. The review will also look at licensing, liability and insurance and driverless regulations being put in place in other countries. The results of the review will be published at the end of 2014.
Due to an accelerated timetable for getting the resulting research underway next year, the competition both opened for registration and a briefing and networking event was held on the same day as the official ministerial announcement.
The Introducing driverless cars to UK roads competition page that details the investment of up to £10m in collaborative R&D projects to research further how driverless cars can be integrated into everyday life in the UK was made public after the announcement and before the briefing event.
The Competition brief provides similar details for download.
The event was organised by KTN - a review of the day will follow - and further networking activity is expected to be held in August or September.
Introducing driverless cars to UK roads - Competition for Collaborative R&D Funding
The Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, in partnership with the Technology Strategy Board, are to invest up to £10m in collaborative R&D projects to research how driverless cars can be integrated into everyday life in the UK.
The competition is part of the Government’s commitment to advance research and development, manufacture and use of driverless cars in the UK.
It aims to establish the UK as a base for R&D and integration of driverless vehicles and associated technologies into society and to attract future investment by identifying up to three urban test locations for further research.
Proposals are now sought from collaborative and business-led consortia, that must also include a local authority partner and may also include other businesses and research organisations.
The deadline for registration is at noon on 24 September 2014, and the deadline for applications is at noon on 1 October 2014.
Focus is on barriers ahead for developing driverless vehicles and in acceptance from consumers and public
Up to three towns or cities will be selected to host trials of driverless cars, alongside other road vehicles, in a real-world environment - and carry out research to help achieve acceptance of such vehicles.
These trials will last between 18 and 36 months and start on 1 January 2015.
It is expected that successful demonstrations in this high-profile area of research will enable the UK to be known for the development, testing and delivering driverless vehicles and the resulting benefits.
The need - increased efficiency, safety, comfort and mobility for an ageing population
Another aim is to provide insight for legislators, insurers and law enforcers on the operation of driverless systems.
Also as 70% of the world’s population is expected to reside in urban environments by 2050, there will be innovative solutions required to address urban transportation challenges. Driverless cars could play a part role in a transport systems, to increase efficiency, safety and comfort and provide mobility solutions to a wider public, both young and old.
Autonomy has the potential to be transformational
Autonomy – cars that drive themselves – would, according to the competition brief, represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine.
The competition is focused on robust town/city-based consortia capable of proving how driverless vehicles will be integrated in a real-world environment.
Proposals are sought to address:
a focus not on technology, but on researching and building a deep understanding of the impact on road users and wider society;
the ability to resolve a wide range of typical challenges, including congestion and road complexity;
research on the interaction with other road users;
interoperability – enabling different solutions to be tested side by side;
the ability to scale up, both in physical environment and number of users;
transferability to different city/town infrastructure;
information for legislators and insurers;
acceleration of development, uptake and investment in the UK;
acquisition of new skills and knowledge in the UK for development of new products, services and processes;
promotion of low and ultra-low emission vehicles;
engagement and dissemination on a world stage including through the media;
increased public awareness and acceptance.
All vehicles will be required to allow continuous in-use data collection, covering at a minimum:
number of individual journeys
length of individual journeys
date and time of journey
journey details in autonomous mode:
Further details are included in the competition brief and defined in the Guidance for Applicants.
Selections based on individual merit to raise the profile of driverless cars and providing comprehensive public feedback
Successful projects will raise the profile of driverless cars whilst providing comprehensive public feedback, which may inform future interventions in this area.
It is expected that, as a guide, each proposal will consist of the following elements:
interaction with other road users
research and investigation of public acceptance
trial of vehicles
collection and analysis of data
final report and dissemination.
Applications are assessed on individual merit by an independent panel of experts.