Self-driving image via iStock

February 2023: seven winners of commercialising UK self-driving competition to share £81m

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UK government backs 7 self-driving projects with multi-million £ grants

Self-driving public transport announcements are like buses, it seems… you wait ages for one and then three come along at once!

In the last two weeks we’ve had the huge news that CAVForth autonomous buses have taken passengers for the first time, and the launch of the UK’s first all-electric autonomous bus service. Follow that!

Ok, today (1 February 2023), the government has confirmed the seven winners of its Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility competition. They’ll each receive a healthy share of £81m in combined government and industry funding.

Self-driving winners

The successful self-driving passenger vehicle and freight projects are, in alphabetical order: CAVForth II, Hub2Hub, Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility, Project Cambridge Connector, Project Harlander, Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle, and V-CAL.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps on UK self-driving, Feb 2023
Business Secretary Grant Shapps on UK self-driving, Feb 2023

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK. This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper on UK self-driving, Feb 2023
Transport Secretary Mark Harper on UK self-driving, Feb 2023

Transport Secretary Mark Harper added: “Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”

The grants will be provided via the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), jointly run by the Department for Transport and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.

The UK's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV)

Industry consortia will then match the £40m+ public grant to help British companies seize early opportunities to develop experimental projects into ready-for-market offerings. Each recipient is expected to demonstrate a sustainable commercial service by 2025, with the money allocated as follows…

Self-driving projects

CAVForth II by Fusion Processing, with project partners Stagecoach Group, Alexander Dennis, University of the West of England, and Edinburgh Napier University, will receive £10.4m to launch the world’s first full-sized self-driving bus service in Edinburgh.

Hub2Hub by HVS, with project partners Asda and Fusion Processing, will receive £13.2m to develop a new zero-emissions self-driving HGV for the UK market, delivering never-seen-before levels of efficiency and operational cost savings for logistics operators.

Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility by Conigital, with project partners the National Exhibition Centre (NEC), Direct Line Group, Coventry City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, University of Warwick, Coventry University, dRisk, IPG Automotive and West Midlands Combined Authority, will receive £15.2m to establish a remote driving control hub to oversee self-driving vehicles operating in Solihull and Coventry.

Project Cambridge Connector by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, including Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and University of Cambridge, along with project partners dRisk, Stagecoach East, IPG Automotive UK, Conigital and Gamma Energy, will receive £17.4m to trial on-demand self-driving taxis across two sites – Cambridge University’s West Cambridge Campus and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

Project Harlander by Belfast Harbour, with partners to be confirmed but expected to be Horiba MIRA, Angoka, BT, and REE Automotive UK, will receive £11m to deploy a self-driving shuttle service around Belfast Harbour. It will be Northern Ireland’s first operationally ready, scalable, and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on mixed-use public roads.

Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle by the City of Sunderland Council, with partners Stagecoach North East, Angoka, Aurrigo (Richmond Design and Marketing), Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications, will receive £6m to build and trial a self-driving shuttle service to serve two high-volume destinations – the University of Sunderland and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

V-CAL by the North East Automotive Alliance, with partners Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, Angoka, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK), will receive £8m to rollout self-driving and remotely piloted HGVs between the Vantec and Nissan sites in Sunderland, including both public and private land.

Self-driving studies

A further £600,000 is also being awarded for feasibility studies to explore how self-driving technology could improve public transport in four parts of the UK currently suffering from congestion.

It includes £142,000 for “Dedicated, Driverless” spaces on the route between Hemel Hempstead and Stansted Airport in Hertfordshire and Essex, £92,000 for an Autonomous Rapid Transit corridor in eastern Cambridge, £151,000 for automated platooning shuttle vehicles using tyre-on-tarmac technology in Birmingham and Solihull, and £200,000 for the Advanced Very Rapid Transit (AVRT) concept in Milton Keynes.

Innovate UK Executive Director for Net Zero, Mike Biddle, said: “The Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) sector is of crucial importance to the UK, with the potential to deliver safer, cleaner and more efficient transport systems across a wide range of settings.

“This latest, multi-year round of government’s Commercialising CAM funds builds on the success of previous collaborative R&D programmes, stimulating innovation to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the transition towards the commercialisation of self-driving services.”

For context, the government press release on the new funding stated: “Self-driving vehicles could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don’t drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.

“Forecasts predict that by 2035, 40% of new UK car sales will have self-driving capabilities, with a total market value for connected and automated mobility worth £41.7 billion to the UK. This could create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology.

“The government is also committed to introducing legislation that will enable the safe and timely rollout of self-driving vehicles on UK roads. Under a proposed ‘safety ambition’ for self-driving vehicles to be equivalent in safety to a competent and careful human driver, vehicles will need to meet certain standards to be allowed to ‘self-drive’ on the roads throughout the lifetime of the vehicle. Organisations overseeing self-driving vehicles could face sanctions if standards are not maintained.”

Momentous stuff indeed and rest assured Cars of the Future will keep you updated on their progress.

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched in 2019.