West Midlands gets £19m boost for plans to become ‘global leader’ in driverless cars

Money will be used to test technology on both ‘multi-lane highways and narrow country lanes’

Credit: WMCA

The West Midlands is to receive £19m in government backing for the region’s autonomous vehicle industry.

About £11m of the funding, which has been awarded by government innovation agency Innovate UK, will be spent on adding to the network of 50 miles of road across Coventry, Birmingham, and Solihull that is currently being used for “real-world testing” of autonomous vehicles. The plan is to include further nearby roads in the testing programme.

This work will see Transport for West Midlands leading a £3.3m rollout of “digital roadside testing infrastructure on motorways and rural roads”. The goal is to enable the development of driverless technology “capable of dealing with the entire spectrum of roads – from multi-lane highways to narrow country lanes”.

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The remainder of the funding comes in the shape of an £8.4m cash injection for the West Midlands-based Connected Vehicles Data Exchange project dedicated to sharing and collating data derived from autonomous vehicles. 

West Midlands mayor Andy Street said that he believes the region’s manufacturing heritage can help it become a world-leading hub for next-generation transport technology.

For many years, the West Midlands was at the forefront of automotive innovation and manufacture and we are now seeing a return to that with the cutting-edge work being carried out around CAV (connected autonomous vehicles),” he said. “Our region is now recognised by manufacturers around the world as one of the very best places to test and develop CAV technology. That can create a cluster effect with manufacturers setting up their operations here in order to be close to the facilities and expertise on offer.”

Street added: “The funding announced today will help keep us at the top of this latest wave of automotive manufacture and build a strong, forward-looking West Midlands economy that can offer decent, future-proof jobs for local people.”

The £19m package for autonomous vehicles comes in addition to a cumulative tally of £45m of central government cash that has already been committed to investments in infrastructure and research across the region.

Sam Trendall

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