The UK Government has launched a new £40 million competition to kick-start commercial self-driving vehicles, such as buses, delivery vans and passenger shuttles.
It will provide grants to help roll out commercial autonomous vehicles across the UK from 2025, aiming to deliver convenience for consumers and help make their journeys “safer, greener and more reliable”.
The competition intends to bring together companies and investors so sustainable business models can be rolled out nationally and exported globally.
The funding will help accelerate a new market for self-driving vehicles – that could also include pods and vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports – which could be worth £42 billion to the UK economy by 2035 and potentially create 38,000 new skilled jobs.
Around £1.5 million of the funding will be used to study and explore using autonomous vehicles as a means of public transport that could provide an alternative to mass transit systems, including using self-driving vehicles on routes separated from other traffic that could be cheaper and more flexible than new railway lines.
The first vehicles to be listed as self-driving in the UK, i.e. vehicles approved under the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) Regulation, could be available for people to buy, lease or rent later this year.
Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone said: “Self-driving vehicles have the potential to revolutionise people’s lives, whether its by helping to better connect people who rely on public transport with jobs, local shops and vital services or by making it easier for those who have mobility issues to order and access services conveniently.
“This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.”