Driverless cars to be trialled in Bristol after city group receives funding

December 3, 2014

Bristol is to be a test-bed for driverless cars after funding was secured by a consortium made up of the city council, universities and businesses.

The Bristol trial, which will start next January, will look at how the public reacts to so-called autonomous vehicles along with the legal and insurance aspects.

It will be among the first projects of its kind and will strengthen Bristol’s reputation as one of the world’s most pioneering and forward-looking cities for technology – a position strengthen by last week winning the International Award for Urban Innovation at its Chinese sister city Guangzhou. 

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “Bristol has a deserved reputation as an innovative city and test-bed for new technologies, As such we are delighted to be part of the VENTURER project that brings together high-quality knowledge and development with an enthusiasm for creating digital solutions.

“The novelty of Bristol’s approach is our focus on public-private-citizen partnerships, championing experimental solutions through the deployment of information and communications technology (ICT) and digital technologies in a people friendly manner.”

Similar trials will take place in Greenwich in South East London, Milton Keynes and Coventry. An undisclosed amount of financial backing for both will come from Innovate UK, the funding organisation formerly known as the Technology Strategy Board.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: “The UK is a world-leader in the development of driverless technology, and today’s announcement will see driverless cars take to city streets from January 1. This not only puts us at the forefront of this transformational technology but it also opens 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.”

The VENTURER consortium is made up of engineering consultancy Atkins, Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire Council, insurer AXA, Williams Advanced Engineering, Fusion Processing, Centre for Transport and Society, UWE Bristol, University of Bristol and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, a collaboration between the University of Bristol and UWE Bristol.

VENTURER project lead and technology director for Atkins’ Highways & Transportation business, Lee Woodcock, said: “We are thrilled to be appointed by Innovate UK to lead the UK development of an independent test site for, and a market leading capability in, autonomous vehicles.

“This programme will help keep the UK at the forefront of this transformational technology, helping to deepen our understanding of the impact on road users and wider society and open up new opportunities for our economy and society.”

Mayor Ferguson added: “Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council have a long-standing commitment to sustainability and we place green issues at the heart of our vision for the city. To help achieve this, significant investment is being made in renewable energy schemes. Bristol is also working to cut its CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020. As we embark on our year as European Green Capital 2015, we hope to seize even more opportunities to bring new investment, businesses and visitors to the region.”

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