RACE has won a share of a £51 million Government investment to upgrade the UK’s autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure.
Four projects across the country have been awarded funding under the new MERIDIAN driverless vehicle programme. The projects will test the speed and safety of the vehicles and give British firms the facilities to compete globally in this fast-growing industry.
RACE is teaming up with vehicle test and validation specialists Millbrook Group to form the Millbrook-Culham Test and Evaluation Environment. This will set up a range of different test areas at Culham and at Millbrook’s Bedfordshire base. The tracks will mimic increasingly real urban driving environments, where automated vehicles can be tested before being taken on to public roads.
Chief Secretary to the Treasury Elizabeth Truss heralded the funding award when she visited Culham Science Centre on 19 October.
She said: “Exciting technologies like self-driving vehicles offer huge opportunities to drive economic growth and improve people’s lives. Culham Science Centre is a showcase of cutting-edge British organisations who are leading the world in this area. Innovative, ambitious companies like those here in Oxfordshire are crucial to Britain’s success in the future.”
The MERIDIAN programme will enable automotive and technology companies to accelerate their research programmes in real-life environments in UK cities, along with specially designed virtual and controlled test environments. The other three MERIDIAN projects are:
- A new site at HORIBA MIRA in Nuneaton alongside existing vehicle test tracks, where automated vehicles can be tested at the limits of their speed and handling to ensure they are safe.
- Two projects will adapt real world locations for testing of automated vehicles in live traffic. TRL will lead a project to set up live test environments in Greenwich and Stratford’s Olympic Park in London. The Warwick Manufacturing Group will set up similar test environments in Coventry and Birmingham.
Announcing the successful bidders, Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:
“Accelerating connected and autonomous vehicle technology development will help to ensure the UK is one of the world’s go-to locations to develop this sector. These projects, backed by Government, form part of a globally unique cluster running from our automotive heartlands in the West Midlands, down through our innovation centres in Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes, through to London, Europe’s only megacity.”
The funding announcement is the first to be funded from the Government’s £100 million Connected and Autonomous Vehicles testing infrastructure fund announced in November 2016 and will be matched by industry.
The investment, as part of the Government’s Industrial Strategy, will further boost the UK’s opportunity to secure a share of the global connected and autonomous vehicles market that is expected to be worth £907 billion by 2035.