Self-driving buses, shuttles and delivery vans could soon hit UK roads thanks to £40 million government-funded competition
Self-driving delivery vans and buses could be on our roads within the next three years under plans now being accelerated.
Millions of pounds in grants is being offered to companies keen to adopt the technology and begin using self-driving vehicles from 2025.
The types of self-driving transport - or autonomous vehicles - that could be deployed to streets and businesses in the UK include delivery vans, passenger buses or shuttles as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports or containers at shipping ports.
And whether it's a car that one-day drops off your monthly food shop or a steaming hot pizza for dinner - ministers are hoping this cash-injection will help speed-up plans for self -driving technology that could make people's lives more convenient and make journeys safer, greener or more reliable.
The new £40 million Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility competition, launched this week, aims to encourage investors and firms to work together to create sustainable business models that will kick-start the launch of commercial self-driving services within the next few years.
An extra £1.5 million is also going to be ploughed into studies that will investigate the potential for self-driving vehicles on routes, away from other traffic, as possible alternatives to new buses or building new railway lines.
While small autonomous robots capable of delivering everything from groceries to takeaway orders are now a regular sight in some UK towns and cities, this project hopes to take things one step further.
Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone explained: "Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether its 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."
The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK could be available for people to purchase, lease or rent as soon as the end of this year. The introduction of the technology is likely to begin with vehicles travelling at slow speeds on motorways, such as in congested traffic using automated lane keeping system (ALKS) technology.
The self-driving industry is estimated to be worth around £42billion to the UK economy over the next 12 to 13 years with the potential to create 38,000 new skilled jobs and car manufacturers are welcoming the £40million competition, which they hope will encourage companies to begin exploring the possibilities self-driving vehicles could offer.
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Chief Executive Mike Hawes explained: "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."