More than £15m granted for West Midlands self-driving vehicles projects

Credit: Connected & Automated Mobility 2025 report

Self-driving vehicles may be a step closer to becoming a reality for the West Midlands after backing from the government and the industry.

The Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility project, being led by Conigital has received £8.3m from the government alongside an industry grant of £6.9m to develop key infrastructure in the West Midlands to help self-driving vehicles become commercially viable.

The West Midlands project aims to establish a control centre in the region where self-driving vehicles can be monitored from, using 5G technology. It is hoped that vehicles overseen by this hub could operate at locations across the region.

The government is awarding almost £42m to 7 projects through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) competition. Industry consortia will match the public grant to around £81m and will be expected to demonstrate a sustainable commercial service by 2025.

The Government says that forecasts predicting 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 £41.7bn to the UK. This could create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology.

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.”

Conigital CEO Don Dhaliwal said: “This project presents a world-changing opportunity for both the project partners and UK PLC; the project takes a huge step towards offering self-driving deployments that do not require on board safety-drivers – a key component to achieve commercial success. We are further pushing the boundaries of efficiency by enabling dual-purpose vehicles to service both passenger and logistics operations”.

£151,000 has also been awarded to the West Midlands Combined Authority for the East Birmingham North Solihull Automated Shuttle Service.

The funding will be used to see how a segregated transit corridor can be created with automated shuttle vehicles operating alongside ‘tyre-on-tarmac’ technology.

The study will consider traditional rail-based requirements, and the associated costs that can be removed in comparison to the new requirements and costs that will be required. East Birmingham North Solihull Metro segregated transit corridor would link the commercial centres of East Birmingham and ‘The Hub’ North Solihull, connecting deprived communities.

Another project in the North East is being supported by Coventry-based Aurrigo – a leading provider of transport technology solutions.

Aurrigo has been awarded with £700,000 to provide three self-driving zero-emission Auto-Shuttles, which will transport passengers between Sunderland Interchange, Sunderland Royal Hospital and the University of Sunderland City Campus.

The SAMS project has been awarded a combined £3m in grant funding, which has been matched by industry contributions to bring total funding to £5.5m.

Prof. David Keene, CEO of Aurrigo, commented: “This grant enables us to build three brand new, bespoke Auto-Shuttles for the SAMS project. This programme will be a great opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of Auto-Shuttle and we are pleased to be partnering with Sunderland City Council to prove the viability of a sustainable, automated public transport service.”

The government says that it is 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. 

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “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.”