Drone deliveries and journey-planning apps to be trialled in £90m programme

Government to test out innovations in three ‘future transport zones’

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The government has unveiled a £90m funding programme to support trials of emerging transport technologies, including drones, autonomous vehicles, and journey-planning apps.

The pilot schemes will take place in three designated ‘future transport zones’: Portsmouth and Southampton; Derby and Nottingham; and the West of England Combined Authority areas, which includes South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Bath and North East Somerset.

Portsmouth and Southampton will trial the use of drones to make medical deliveries between sites on the Isle of Wight and the mainland. The region will also conduct pilots of other technologies “options for last-mile deliveries”, including e-cargo bikes, as well as examining the potential use of journey-planning smartphone apps.

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In Derby and Nottingham, meanwhile, the government will allocate £15m of funding to support the creation of so-called mobility hubs, that integrate with one another and aim to “encourage more widespread uptake of public transport, bike hire, car clubs and electric vehicles”. 

The East Midlands cities will also implement a website and an app to provide residents with more information about transport choices, and to simplify payment processes.

In the West of England, the local authority will implement digital booking systems that allow citizens to “book one journey across multiple modes of transport”. The area will also test the use of self-driving cars for journeys between locations including Bristol Airport and Bath city centre.

Alongside the trials, the government has launched a consultation on how technology will shape the future of transport. The review will focus on three particular areas: micromobility vehicles, such as electric scooters; flexible bus services; and mobility-as-a-service systems. Responses can be submitted online.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: “We are on the cusp of a transport revolution. Emerging technologies are ripping up the rulebook and changing the way people and goods move forever. Our groundbreaking future of transport programme marks the biggest review of transport laws in a generation and will pave the way for exciting new transport technology to be tested, cementing the UK’s position as a world-leading innovator. This review will ensure we understand the potential impacts of a wide range of new transport modes such as e-scooters, helping to properly inform any decisions on legalisation. Funding these new zones across the country will also help us safely test innovative ways to get around, creating a greener future transport system for us all.”


Sam Trendall

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