Trials of driverless cars get underway

11/02/2015
Highways Reporters

Driverless cars are being trialled for the first time in the Royal Borough of Greenwich today (11 February 2015).

The trial is being launched in Greenwich Peninsula – location of the GATEway (Greenwich Automated Transport Environment project) trial – by Transport Minister Claire Perry and Business Secretary Vince Cable, alongside publication of a Department for Transport (DfT) report setting out the pathway for the widespread introduction of the technology.

The GATEway project includes the testing of a fully driverless vehicle named the Meridian Shuttle, which will be evaluated in various scenarios over the next two years. This morning (11 February 2015) it will take its inaugural journey at Greenwich Peninsula.

The GATEway project will test a number of important factors involved with using automated vehicles with the aim of putting the UK at the forefront of developing this type of transport technology.

Over the next two years the GATEway project will:


  • Demonstrate automated transport systems in a range of environments


  • Explore the legal and technical changes required to introduce automated vehicles


  • Explore the reactions of both pedestrians, drivers and other road users to automated vehicles.


The GATEway project is made up of a consortium of 11 members, led by TRL (Transport Research Laboratory) along with key partners including the Royal Borough of Greenwich, which is the location for the trials. Other key consortium members include RSA, the global insurer, who will be looking at how automated vehicles might impact the motor insurance market, Shell and Telefonica who will be learning how the technology might impact their sectors and the University of Greenwich who will be researching how people might interact with driverless vehicles.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said: "The UK is at the cutting edge of automotive technology. It’s important for jobs, growth and society that we keep at the forefront of innovation, that’s why I launched a competition to research and develop driverless cars. The projects we are now funding in Greenwich, Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry will help to ensure we are world-leaders in this field and able to benefit from what is expected to be a £900 billion industry by 2025. The government’s industrial strategy is backing the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength, we are giving business the confidence to invest over the long term and developing cutting-edge technology that will create high skilled jobs."


Project lead Dr Nick Reed said: “The innovative GATEway project will help place the UK at the forefront of the rapidly emerging sector of research and development related to automated vehicles. Through the strengths of the consortium and the project location within Greenwich – at the heart of the UK’s only globally recognised megacity, we can start addressing the technical, societal and legal barriers to automated vehicles and create a world class, technology-agnostic testing environment to help deliver the future of urban mobility.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry added: “Driverless cars are the future. I want the UK to be open-minded and embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.

“The breadth of public and private sector involvement in the GATEway project is testament to the potential of driverless cars and how much we stand to gain from testing them further. I want to thank the Greenwich team for all the work they have done so far and I will be watching the trials with interest.”

Further trials, being led by three consortia and supported by government funding, will take place in  Bristol, Milton Keynes and Coventry. They will last from 18 to 36 months, and will assess how driverless vehicles function in everyday life on public roads and their scope for making road travel safer and more sustainable.

The next step is for the government to introduce a code of practice which will provide industry with the framework they need to trial cars in real-life scenarios, and to create more sophisticated versions of the models that already exist. This code of practice is scheduled for publication in spring 2015.

Visitors to last year's Seeing is Believing were able to see self-driving cars in action. The biennial event will return to Bruntingthorpe Proving Ground in Leicestershire next year from 9-10 November. You can read a review of the 2014 event and find out more about self-driving cars here.
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