UK government gives go-ahead for first use of autonomous vehicles on public roads

The first use of fully connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) on public roads in the UK is set to take place in Oxfordshire, it was announced this week.

The 30-month MultiCAV project, awarded £2.5 million by the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, will trial self-driving vehicles in and around Milton Park, a large, high-tech business and science hub near Didcot.

We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK.
— John Birtwistle, FirstGroup

The self-driving vehicles will travel between private roads at Milton Park and the public roads that link the site with nearby transport services.

The project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, led by UK transport operator FirstGroup.

“We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK,” said John Birtwistle, project lead for FirstGroup. “By connecting the Milton Park development with the existing regional transport infrastructure, including Great Western Railway trains at Didcot Parkway station, commuters will see a tangible reason to leave their cars at home.”

Commuters to Milton Park will be able to connect with the self-driving pods from local transport services. The organisers hope that up to 50% of the existing private vehicle journeys made within the park will switch to using the shared, electric pods.

“Oxfordshire was the first council to consider autonomous vehicles within its transport policy and has been a supporter of the technology since it’s infancy in the UK,” said Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for Environment and Economy.

Innovate UK Chief Executive Ruth McKernan said: “The quality and commercial potential of these successful projects demonstrate how UK businesses are developing pioneering connected and autonomous vehicle technologies. The impact will benefit our thriving automotive industry and the economy as a whole.”