Full speed ahead: The UK's accelerating its transport tech drive with driverless hub and Wayra startup accelerator


By 2035, the global driverless car industry could be worth £907bn (Source: Getty)

The UK's ramping up its focus on transport technology with the launch of a new hub for developing driverless car technology.

The plans to create a testing "corridor" along the M40 between London and Coventry with bases in the midlands city and Stratford are part of £100m of investment in the technology promised by the government industrial strategy.

Meridian, announced today by industry and climate change minister Claire Perry, will also involve private business and is also seeking to attract foreign investment.

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"The Meridian co-ordination hub embodies this ambition, creating a globally recognisable brand that will bring the automotive sector, academia and Government together behind a common set of strategic goals," said Perry.

A fresh government report estimates that connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) technology wil be worth £907bn globally by 2035 and £52bn in the UK alone, creating 27,000 job, the majority of which will be highly skilled.

"... 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," Perry added.

Graham Hoare, Ford's director of global vehicle evaluation and verification an chair of the Auto Council Technology Group, said: "The UK has long-standing capabilities across many of the sectors supporting new vehicle technologies and an approach that is more open and collaborative than other markets."

Meanwhile, a new startup accelerator has been launched to help innovative firms developing transport technology.

The new programme from Wayra, the startup incubator of mobile giant Telefonica, and the Transport Systems Catapult, the government's transport innovation centre in Milton Keynes,  is seeking startups from across the "intelligent mobility" sector tackling issues such as congestion and overcrowding, emissions and safety.

Network Rail and tech consultancy ThoughWorks will also be involved in mentoring the startups over the six month scheme.

Read more: Ford and Domino's are delivering pizzas with driverless cars

“Transport is an area where data-driven tech solutions are already making a huge difference to the lives of billions – from the development of the Oyster card to the creation of journey helpers like Citymapper," said Wayra UK director Gary Stewart.

Through this innovative programme, we hope to support the development of the next generation of transport systems breakthroughs and contribute further to making the UK the best place in the world to scale a transport start-up.”

The latest efforts follow millions of pounds handed out over the summer to groups developing driverless car technology. One of them, Driven, this week unveiled its protoype model vehicles which will soon be seen tested on the roads around Oxford.

A startup involved in another group testing the tech, Five AI, this week landed £14m in fresh funding from a line up of top investors, including an early backer of Facebook and Spotify in a fresh boost for the UK's expertise.