The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) is planning to step up its testing of autonomous vehicles following the award of £19 million for its Midlands Future Mobility Project.
Plans are also being made for a digital platform to support the operations of road fleet operators.
The new funds have been awarded by the Government backed innovation agency Innovate UK, on top of the £25 million it had already provided to the Midlands Future Mobility consortium, and reinforce the region’s position in research and development of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV).
Around £11 million of the funding will be used to expand the 50 miles of roads in Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull that are already being used by the consortium for real world testing of CAV technology. It will now work with Highways England on adding motorways to the existing network, with the deployment of infrastructure including smart vehicle monitoring, data analytics and 5G.
From this funding, £3.3 million will be used by Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) to install digital roadside testing infrastructure on the motorways and rural roads. WMCA said this will help develop technology capable of dealing with the entire spectrum of roads - from multi-lane highways to narrow country lanes.
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street 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.
“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.”
A further £8.4 million has been awarded to the Midlands based ConVEX – Connected Vehicle Data Exchange – project. As part of this TfWM will use £287,000 to build a digital platform for the exchange of data between technology developers and fleet operators.
All this follows the award of £20 million by Chancellor Philip Hammond in last month’s Budget to help fund the UK Mobility Data Institute, a joint venture between the WMCA and the University of Warwick. The institute will collect and analyse the huge volumes of transport data generated by new mobility technologies and projects such as Midlands Future Mobility.
Image from GOV.UK, Open Government Licence v3.0