Driverless cars are set to take to the road in the UK from January 2015 – with a £10 million boost up for grabs and the Midlands well-placed to benefit.
Guided by a system of sensors and cameras, the cars will, for the first time, be driven on public roads in a series of trials that will last between 18 and 36 months.
UK cities can now bid for a share of a £10 million competition to host the trials, with up to three cities being selected.
And the West Midlands is already at the forefront, with work taking place at MIRA in Nuneaton and Coventry-based RDM Group already carrying out work on the country’s first driverless cars project.
The go-ahead for the new cars was given by Business Secretary Vince Cable who, with Science Minister Greg Clark, tested a driverless car at the headquarters of motor industry research organisation MIRA.
Mr Cable said: “The excellence of our scientists and engineers has established the UK as pioneers in the development of driverless vehicles through pilot projects.
“Today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to our streets in less than six months, putting us at the forefront of this transformational technology and opening up new opportunities for our economy and society.
“Through the Government’s industrial strategy we are backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing the right environment to give businesses the confidence to invest and create high skilled jobs.”
Ministers have also launched a review to look at current road regulations to establish how the UK can remain at the forefront of driverless car technology and ensure there is an appropriate regime for testing driverless cars in the UK.
Two areas of driverless technology will be covered in the review: cars with a qualified driver who can take over control of the driverless car and fully autonomous vehicles where there is no driver.
However, motoring groups have warned that road users will be wary of the introduction of driverless vehicles.
AA president Edmund King said that a recent AA/Populus survey of more than 23,000 AA members showed that 43 per cent did not agree that UK legislation should be amended to even allow trials of the technology.
Mr King said: “Many drivers are still resistant to change as 65 per cent enjoy driving too much to ever want the vehicle to take over from them.”