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11th July 2014

UK Government Fast Track of Driverless Cars announced at MIRA

Business Secretary Vince Cable has returned to MIRA Technology Park 18 months on from opening its Control Tower - the first new building within the Enterprise Zone - to announce two new measures that give the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.

UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10m
competition to host a driverless cars trial.  The Government is calling on cities to join together with businesses and research organisations to put forward proposals to become a test location.

MIRA, based in Hinckley, was chosen as the venue for the announcement thanks to its 10 years of experience in autonomous vehicles and unmanned platforms, as well as for the presence of its City Circuit which is a safe and highly reproducible controlled environment in which to develop these vehicles prior to deployment.

Up to three cities will be selected to host the trials from next year – and each project is expected to last between 18 and 36 months and start in January 2015. 

Ministers have also launched a review to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.

Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver. 

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said: “The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects. Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.

“Through the Government’s industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs.”

MIRA’s Chief Commercial and Technical Officer, Dr Geoff Davis said: “MIRA has been at the heart of developing driverless car solutions with successful applications in defence and security, and cooperative systems in road transport application. MIRA has the UK’s only dedicated independent validation facility for the development of intelligent and cooperative driverless cars, using this facility and our world-class research, and development teams are already looking at the challenges ahead. We welcome the announcement made by the Rt Hon Dr Vince Cable today at MIRA to help encourage further advancements and UK engineering excellence.” 

Transport Minister Minister Claire Perry said: “Driverless cars have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network – they could improve safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions, particularly CO2. We are determined to ensure driverless cars can fulfil this potential which is why we are actively reviewing regulatory obstacles to create the right framework for trialling these vehicles on British roads.”

Iain Gray, CEO of the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, said: “This competition for funding has the potential to establish the UK as the global hub for the development and testing of driverless vehicles in real-world urban environments, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society. 

“The ability to test driverless cars at scale, when married to the UK’s unique strengths in transport technologies and urban planning, will also attract further investment, helping to establish new design and manufacturing supply chains, driving forward UK economic growth.”

The driverless cars competition is being funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Transport, in partnership with the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board. Successful projects must be business-led and need to demonstrate close collaboration with partners such as technology developers, supply chain companies and manufacturers.