Beginning January 2015, Bristol will host 1 of 3 formal trials testing the integration of driverless cars on UK roads. Alongside Milton Keynes and Greenwich, Bristol will be allocated as a ‘testbed’ for these trials, a project which has received substantial government backing.
The Venturer consortium will oversee trials in Bristol, which are expected to last 3 years. Making up the consortium are Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, AXA, Fusion Processing, Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), University of Bristol, the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, and most recently Williams Advanced Engineering.
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Williams will be contributing a simulator able to create virtual environments and traffic scenarios in which the driverless cars will be tested. The engineering company has developed its expertise in simulation since 2002, when the technology was introduced to Formula 1.
Managing director of Williams Advanced Engineering Craig Wilson said, “We are delighted to be working with a consortium of like-minded and forward thinking organisations to help make driverless cars a reality on Britain’s roads.”
Getting the green light
Innovate UK, the Government’s innovation funding agency, began a £10m competition in July, seeking out consortia willing to research the integration of driverless cars. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne recently revealed in the Autumn Statement (point 1.146), that a further £9m has been added to the prize pool.
“Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine”
Nick Jones, Lead technologist at Innovate UK said: “Cars that drive themselves would represent the most significant transformation in road travel since the introduction of the internal combustion engine and at Innovate UK we want to help the UK to lead the world in making that happen.
“There are so many new and exciting technologies that can come together to make driverless cars a reality, but it’s vital that trials are carried out safely, that the public have confidence in that technology and we learn everything we can through the trials so that legal, regulation and protection issues don’t get in the way in the future.”
In other excellent news for the region, the statement also outlined a commitment of £61m in funding to High Value Manufacturing Catapult centres, like the NCC in Bristol.
Innovate UK run competitions covering everything from space technology to knowledge transfer partnerships in user experience, which they update regularly on the Innovate UK website. TRL have written about the GOBOTiX project coming to Greenwich, and you can read out about Milton Keynes’ ‘pods’ on BBC news.