Original Article | Posted 19th October 2017

Government announces winners of funding to upgrade testing infrastructure for connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology.

TRL driverless pod

  • the 4 projects will test the speed, safety and potential opportunities for delivering CAV innovation, helping ensure the UK remains world-leading
  • 4 consortia have been selected in this first round, led by HORIBA MIRA, Millbrook Proving Ground, TRL and the Warwick Manufacturing Group

Four projects across 5 locations in the West Midlands have today (19 October) been awarded a total of £51 million in funding for creating the environments needed to fully test CAV technology.

  • HORIBA MIRA in Nuneaton will build a new site alongside its existing vehicle test tracks where automated vehicles can be tested at the limits of their speed and handling to ensure they are safe
  • Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire and Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE) based in the Culham Science Centre in Oxfordshire will set up a range of different test areas mimicking increasingly realistic city driving environments, where automated vehicles can be tested before being taken onto public roads
  • 2 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
    • Warwick Manufacturing Group will set up real-world test environments in Coventry and Birmingham

Reflecting the UK’s ability to compete globally in this hotly contested sector, Jim Hackett, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ford Motor Company, opened Ford Europe’s Smart Mobility Innovation Office at the Olympic Park in Stratford yesterday. It will initially host 40 specialists brought together to develop smart mobility technologies for cities.

All the CAV projects announced today will be fully operational and advancing technology development in this sector within the next 18 to 24 months.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said:

Combining ambitious new technologies and innovative business models to address social and economic challenges lies at the heart of the government’s modern Industrial Strategy. Accelerating connected and autonomous vehicle technology development is central to achieving this ambition and 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.

To achieve this, government and industry are working together to create the world’s most effective CAV testing ecosystem, integrating existing proving grounds and public road test sites across the UK’s existing automotive sector, strengthening existing capabilities and creating new ones.

This new ecosystem will be coordinated through MERIDIAN, a new government-backed and industry-led hub to develop CAV technology in the UK.

The MERIDIAN programme lays the foundation for a truly unique, world-class, future transport technology testing ecosystem in which automotive and digital sectors can compete globally, and emerging businesses have unprecedented access to facilities.

Chair of the Auto Council Technology Group, Graham Hoare said:

Currently no other country has taken this innovative leveraged national approach and this can be a major differentiator on the global stage. This will be a globally unique set of capabilities that is co-ordinated and developed to provide a solution to industry that will enhance delivery efficiency, collaboration and knowledge growth.

Launch Director of MERIDIAN, Jim Campbell said:

As connected and autonomous vehicle technology becomes more complex, ensuring that the UK automotive industry has world-leading facilities to test and refine concepts is of imperative importance. Today’s announcement from government is a strong first step to ensure the UK achieves its ambition of becoming a global hub of CAV development in the coming years.

The MERIDIAN will offer world-class CAV testing and development in the UK which allows us to accelerate research, development and adoption of these vehicles.

Director of Manufacturing and Materials at Innovate UK, Simon Edmonds, said:

This first wave of testbed infrastructure investment is crucial at establishing a UK cluster of excellence to test and develop autonomous vehicle technology. This is another good example of how the UK is leading the way on this exciting agenda, and how UK companies can take advantage of the massive opportunities it presents.

This important investment, as part of the government’s modern 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 up to £51 billion by 2020.

Automotive and technology companies will be able to accelerate their research programmes in real-life environments in UK cities, along with specially designed virtual and controlled test environments.

As well as securing high quality jobs for the future, it will unlock significant social benefits such as improving safety and provide better mobility access for the young, the elderly, and the disabled.

Yesterday the government introduced the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill as part of plans to boost the green transport revolution. The Bill will increase the access and availability of chargepoints for electric cars, while also giving the government powers to make it compulsory for chargepoints to be installed across the country and enabling drivers of automated cars to be insured on UK roads.

Notes to editors

1) The projects are the first to be funded from the government’s £100 million Connected and Autonomous Vehicles testing infrastructure programme announced in November 2016 and will be matched by industry.

2) The £51 million funding will be allocated across the UK: £31 million in the West Midlands, £7 million in Oxfordshire and Bedfordshire, and £13 million in London.

3) The winning CAV projects are:

Project title Location Public funding Total project value* Consortium partners
Smart Mobility Living Lab: London Greenwich and Stratford (Olympic Park) £13.4m £19.2m TRL (leader), Digital Greenwich, London Legacy Development Corporation, Cisco, Costain, Cubic, TfL, Loughborough University (London campus), and delivery partners, Millbrook and 5G Innovation Centre (University of Surrey)
UK Central CAV Testbed Coventry and Birmingham £17.6m £25.3m Warwick Manufacturing Group (leader), Amey, AVL, Costain, Coventry University, Horiba Mira, Transport for West Midlands, Wireless Infrastructure Group
MCTEE (Millbrook-Culham Test and Evaluation Environment) Millbrook (near Milton Keynes) and Culham (near Oxford) £6.9m £10m Millbrook Proving Ground (leader) and UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Remote Applications in Challenging Environments (RACE, at Culham Science Centre)
TIC-IT (Trusted Intelligent CAVs) Nuneaton £13m £26m HORIBA MIRA (leader) and Coventry University

* Full 50% industry match will be met through operation and maintenance of the project facilities.

4) Since the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles was created in 2015 the government has awarded more than £100 million to 51 projects researching and developing connected and autonomous technology advancement.

These projects are all collaborative, involving more than 150 individual organisations from SMEs to global companies. 51 of these projects include a number of high profile trials to understand how members of the public will interact with the vehicles. These include:

  • the GATEWAY consortia which will run four autonomous shuttles around the Greenwich peninsula in November this year (2017) for the public to use
  • the UK AUTODRIVE consortia which will operate up to 40 autonomous pods in Milton Keynes in 2018
  • the VENTURER consortia which has been undertaking a series of increasingly complex trials in the Bristol area
  • a third collaborative research and development competition, now open with £25 million of funding available to the winning projects, the competition closes on 25 October