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Government announces autonomous vehicle contest

Business secretary Greg Clark launches a contest to access funding from the government’s £100m connected and autonomous vehicle funding pot

At the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Connected Conference in London, the government has announced plans for the first phase of a £100m planned investment in connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) testing.

The government would like the UK to become the go-to destination for CAV development, and says its £100m funding pot, which is to be matched by the automotive sector, is designed to create “the world’s most effective” CAV testing cluster in the UK’s automotive heartland along the M40 corridor.

In a speech to 400 industry leaders, business secretary Greg Clark said the CAV programme would be launched as a grant through a series of funding competitions. The first such competition will invite bids for a share of £55m.

“By 2035, the global market for connected and autonomous vehicle technologies is predicted to be worth £63bn. Our investment and collaboration with industry to build on our strengths and create a cluster of excellence that will ensure we are at the forefront of its development and perfectly positioned to lead and capitalise on this market,” said Clark.

“The test bed is an example of the Industrial Strategy the government is committed to delivering. At its heart is a world-class science, research and innovation base which will continue to offer high-skill, well-paying jobs, ensuring the UK delivers an economy that works for everyone and cement itself as one of the world’s ‘go-to’ destinations for testing driverless car technology, now and in the future,” he added.

The government said creating a coherent national cluster would help industry accelerate the development of CAV technology, grow intellectual capital, attract investment from abroad and create a national ecosystem to cover the testing requirements for CAV technology, from initial design through to on-road tests.

The inaugural competition will support projects in a number of streams: public test facilities in a complex, real-world urban environment; a controlled test environment representative of urban driving; and a realistic and controlled high-speed test environment.

Read more about UK policy for autonomous vehicles

“The UK is a hotbed of innovation and one of the fastest moving areas is in connected and autonomous vehicles,” said Mike Hawes, CEO of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.

“We want the UK to be the destination of choice for the development and testing of this new generation of vehicles. Government support and investment, such as we are seeing today, will help this technology flourish allowing the UK to reap the economic and societal benefits,” he added.

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