Midlands roads to be UK autonomous vehicle testbed

Roads in Coventry and Birmingham are set to become a world-class UK testbed for developing the next generation connected and autonomous (CAV) vehicles, thanks to a new £25m programme of investment being led by WMG at the University of Warwick.

The pioneering venture, undertaken by a consortium of research and industry partners, will make UK roads ready for CAVs by developing wireless networks, analysing how vehicles behave in real urban environments and involving the public in their evaluations.

The UK Central CAV Testbed will be based on 80 kilometres of urban roads in Coventry and Birmingham, creating a world-leading connected infrastructure and eco-system, and positioning the Midlands as a centre for cutting-edge automotive and communication technologies.

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.”

Professor Paul Jennings, an expert in CAV technology from WMG, is leading the project. He commented: “I am thrilled to be working alongside our consortium partners on the UK Central CAV Testbed which will form a key part of the new UK Testing Infrastructure.The Midlands has a proud heritage of pioneering vehicle development, and I am delighted to be part of the next era – bringing CAVs onto the road and allowing all of us to reap the benefits as soon as possible.”

Jim Campbell, Launch Director, Meridian, said: “WMG’s project is part of a crucial first step to ensure that the UK is best-placed to become a world-leader in connected and autonomous vehicle technology. With this first phase of government funding, Meridian will work with WMG to help develop the sophisticated vehicle testing capabilities needed for the UK automotive industry to thrive in the future.”

The control room for the testbed will be located within the National Automotive Innovation Centre (NAIC) – a unique centre which will provide a critical mass of research capability, combining automotive expertise nationally and internationally.

The development and deployment of CAVs is driven by the need to reduce traffic congestion and accidents on our roads, and will provide significant societal benefits, as well as business opportunities for the automotive, communications, infrastructure and transport sectors in the UK.

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