launches 'co-ordination hub' for driverless car industry

But experts reckon Blighty's still in the slow lane

Robot drives a car. Conceptual illustration from Shutterstock

The government has today unveiled a "co-ordination hub" to test driverless cars under its £100m Connected and Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) investment programme.

Branded as MERIDIAN, the bases in Coventry and Stratford are intended to bring together the UK's existing CAV testing centres to create "a concentrated cluster" of testing facilities that covers all testing requirements for CAV technology.

Climate change and industry minister Claire Perry said a government report, to be published by her department today, predicts that by 2035 the global market for CAV technologies will be worth £907bn. The report also claims that the UK market could be worth £52bn by 2035.

"Through government investment and collaboration with industry in this area we will ensure that the UK becomes one of the global 'go-to' destinations for the development of this technology," said Perry.

The funding was first announced in George Osborne's 2015 Spring Budget, with the £100m to be match-funded by industry. Prior to that the previous government had also committed £19m to support research centres in Greenwich in southeast London, Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes.

A consortium of British companies has since unveiled a plan to test driverless cars on UK roads and motorways in 2019, which is to be backed by a £8.6m government grant. The Driven consortium is led by Oxbotica, which makes software for driverless vehicles.

However, some experts have argued the UK lags behind other countries. Professor David Bailey from Aston Business School told the BBC that "the big development in the field is going on elsewhere".

"That includes Google in the US, Volvo in China and Daimler in Germany. And amounts being committed [by the UK] are relatively small beer.

"The Obama government, for example, proposed spending billions of dollars over 10 years." ®

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