On 23 May, a new £40m funding competition to kick-start commercial self-driving services – Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility – was announced by Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone.
Run by the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) – the government unit tasked with shaping the safe and secure emergence of connected and self-driving vehicles in the UK – the competition aims to bring together companies and investors so that sustainable business models can be rolled out nationally and exported globally.
The types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles and pods, as well as those for airports and shipping ports.
Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone, said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether it’s by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops, and vital services, or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.
“This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.”
Regular readers will note that this is the second high profile self-driving comment by Lord Grimstone this week, following his praise for Oxbotica’s landmark self-driving success of running a zero-occupancy vehicle on UK roads.
Transport Minister, Trudy Harrison, added: “We know that self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise the way we travel, making our future journeys cleaner, easier and more reliable. But our absolute priority is harnessing the technology to improve road safety.
“With around 88% of road collisions currently caused by human error, this funding will drive the introduction of new technology to improve travel for all, while boosting economic growth and highly skilled jobs across the nation.”
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Executive, Mike Hawes, was also quoted in the official competition launch press release, saying: “Self-driving vehicles offer major benefits to society – improving road safety, supporting new jobs and economic growth, and enabling greater mobility for everyone – so the UK is rightly seeking to be at the forefront of this technological evolution.
“Recent regulatory reforms have helped Britain establish itself as a leader in the rollout out of self-driving passenger vehicles, and today’s announcement is a significant step towards self-driving public transport and goods delivery services becoming a reality.
“This new funding competition will help drive innovation and, potentially, private investment in UK automotive, ensuring cutting-edge self-driving technology finds a clearer path to UK roads.”
The statement went on to trot out the now familiar lines that self-driving “could be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2035… potentially creating 38,000 new skilled jobs”.
However, deeper into the announcement came more interesting nuggets: £1.5m of the funding will be used to study using self-driving vehicles as an alternative to mass transit systems, for example, instead of new railway lines or bus routes.
Although there was no mention of it in the actual speech, unlike rail, the competition launch also included this eye-catching line: “The government announced a Transport Bill in the recent Queen’s Speech that will introduce comprehensive legislation for self-driving vehicles to enable safe and responsible deployment.”
Slightly worryingly, it went on to confirm that: “The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK – vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation – could be available for people to purchase, lease or rent later this year.”
We get tired of saying it, but the continuing conflation of assisted driving and self-driving really isn’t helpful.
To be fair, the “notes to editors” section did reiterate that “Currently, there are no vehicles approved for self-driving on Britain’s roads meaning drivers must always remain in control of the vehicle.”
Further headline stats included:
- In 2035, 80% of Britain’s jobs relating to CAV technology production are estimated to be in software-related industries. The remaining 20% would be in the production of CAV hardware, such as sensors.
- Over 90% of the jobs created in developing CAV software and over 80% of the jobs relating to the manufacture of CAV hardware are expected to be in professional, technical and skilled trade occupations.
- The SMMT estimates that self-driving vehicles could save 3,900 lives and prevent 47,000 serious accidents by 2030.
- The Connected Places Catapult forecasts that, by 2035, 40% of new UK car sales could have self-driving capabilities, with a total market value of £41.7bn.
Key To UK Self-driving
The Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility competition officially opened on 23 May 2022, the day before a CCAV, Innovate UK, Innovate UK KTN and Zenzic industry engagement event at the National Digital Exploitation Centre in Ebbw Vale, Wales.
As an indicator of the documents the Government considers most important, projects must align with the nine principles of the Future of Mobility Urban Strategy, those using public roads must comply with the DfT’s Code of Practice: Automated Vehicle Trialling, while terminology in applications should comply with the meanings set out in BSI’s CAV Vocabulary.
Only UK-registered organisations can apply. Your project’s total grant funding request must be between £500,000 and £9m, and projects must start by 1 March 2023.
Entries close at 11:00am on 20 July 2022.