Driverless cars will be tested in a pedestrianised area for the first time after £1.5 million was made available from the Government.
The ‘pods’ will be able to carry two people and will be run on designated pathways in Milton Keynes city centre. It is planned that in 2015, an initial batch of 20 pods will be driver-operated and will run on lanes separated from pedestrians. By mid 2017, 100 pods that are fully autonomous will be running on pathways alongside people and will use sensors to avoid obstacles.
Early collaborators on the project include engineering consultancy firm Arup, Transport Systems Catapult, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities.
The £1.5m forms part of a £75 million fund that will enable businesses to make and test low carbon technologies that will keep the UK at the forefront of engine design and help safeguard up to 30,000 jobs in engine production. They will be the pilot projects of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which was announced in July, and will channel £1 billion investment from Government and industry to fund the development of new technologies over the next 10 years.
Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “By 2050, very few – if any – new cars will be powered solely by the traditional internal combustion engines, so it is important that the UK car industry is at the cutting edge of low carbon technologies.
“Driverless cars are another invention that has the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for, as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety.
”The car industry has gone from strength to strength – with one vehicle rolling off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds. But we must look at the long-term challenges and opportunities to ensure the sector continues to succeed and grow.”