Experimental roads for driverless cars will be built and tested in the West Midlands
The Government’s Industrial Strategy invites organisations to come up with ideas for the roads of the future, and they will be built in the West Midlands
The Government wants to build new experimental roads in the West Midlands which are designed specifically for driverless cars.
It is to launch a competition inviting organisations to explain what the roads of the future should look like.
And it will then build the best entries in the West Midlands, so that they can be tested.
The plan is revealed in the Government’s Industrial Strategy, published by Business Secretary Greg Clark and Prime Minister Theresa May.
The thinking behind it is that roads will have to change if the Government is going to achieve its goal of getting fully self-driving cars, which don’t need any help from a human operator, on the UK’s roads by 2021.
For example, a road may need radio transmitters to ensure the vehicles on it can communicate with each other, and receive information about roadworks and other obstacles up ahead.
The National Infrastructure Commission, a Government body chaired by former Transport Secretary Lord Adonis, will oversee the contest.
The Strategy document states: “The National Infrastructure Commission will also launch a new innovation prize to determine how future roadbuilding should adapt to supporting selfdriving cars, with the West Midlands, a UK centre of expertise on connected and autonomous vehicles, being a key testing location for the best entries.”
The Government is keen to support self-driving cars, also known as autonomous vehicles and intelligent vehicles, partly because it wants UK-based manufacturers such as Jaguar Land Rover or Nissan to lead the world in producing the new vehicles.
But it also argues that self-driving cars will cut pollution and congestion on our roads.
There will be fewer traffic jams and faster speeds because the vehicles will be able to communicate with each other, maintaining the correct distance between vehicles and travelling at a steady speed. It means more vehicles will be able to use a road at once, cutting congestion.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy published a £51 million investment in research of autonomous cars in October.
The money was handed to projects including:
- Warwick Manufacturing Group will set up real-world test environments in Coventry and Birmingham
- Horiba Mira in Nuneaton will build a track to test the handling and speed of autonomous vehicles
- Test track to be built at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire
- Another test track at Culham Science Centre, in Oxfordshire, will be designed to mimic real world environments
- Live test environments in Greenwich and the Olympic Park in London