The UK government has announced that it is awarding a total of £42 million of funding to develop autonomous road transport. The grants are part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme and will be matched by industry. They go to seven projects, most of which are aimed at providing driverless passenger transport, but two involve goods transport.
The largest of these grants is £6.6 million to the Hub2Hub consortium, consisting of a new Glasgow-based vehicle manufacturer, HVS, automation specialist Fusion Processing and the retailer Asda. HVS has developed a prototype hydrogen-powered tractor unit which is due to begin trials in 2024. It’s proposed that it will initially be tested with an on-board safety attendant, before a second version, with no cab provision, will be operated fully autonomously with a remote “driver” taking controlled at each end of a journey.
The second truck-related project is called V-CAL, the North East Automotive Alliance, which receives £4 million to develop four self-driving HGVs, operating on closed private roads in the vicinity of the Nissan plant in Sunderland.
Launching the grants, 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 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.”