UK's driverless car plans step up a gear with fresh government funding from Industrial Strategy Challenge fund going to Oxbotica-led group

Lynsey Barber
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Fresh funding for driverless cars is part of the modern industrial strategy (Source: Getty)

A fresh group of top tech companies, researchers and authorities such as Transport for London have landed millions of pounds from the government to get driverless cars on to Britain's roads.

Oxbotica, a tech company spun off from the Oxford Robotics Institute and behind self-driving pod trials in London, will lead an ambitious 30-month programme to get fully autonomous vehicles travelling between London and Oxford.

In addition to the technology, the group will work with reinsurer XL Catlin to come up with plans for insuring fleets of vehicles in connected cities that will take into account data from the cars themselves and traffic systems around them.

Read more: Driverless cars are hitting the streets of London next month

“Today’s news is truly ground-breaking," said Oxbotica chief executive Dr Graeme Smith of DRIVEN.

"We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles. I have full confidence in DRIVEN’s world-leading and internationally respected team of specialists to deliver this project.”

Telefonica, the Transport Research Lab (TRL), the UK Atomic Energy Authority's R&D lab Race, the UK's national domain registry Nominet, Oxford Robotics Institute and Oxfordshire council will also be part of the consortium, along with Oxbotica, XL Catlin and TfL.

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The cash comes from the government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, part of a £2bn pledge to support cutting-edge technology as part of the modern industrial strategy. The fund is designed to foster greater collaboration between business and science and technology research in areas such biotech, battery technology, robotics and artificial intelligence in which the UK could become world leaders.

Business minister Greg Clark last week added driverless cars, future materials and satellite and space technologies to the list of sectors to be awarded grants.

Another consortium, Streetwise, will also be working on driverless tech, led by UK startup FiveAI along with TRL, TfL, Oxford University and Direct Line.

Oxbotica and TRL are behind the trials of self-driving car pods in Greenwich, where the public can now test them out.

"Harry" the driverless vehicle is zipping around Greenwich as 10mph (Source: The Gateway Project)

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