Energy Efficiency and Sustainability


Oxfordshire councils receive funding for ‘exciting’ autonomous vehicles plan

Trials of the first connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) on public roads are set to take place in Oxfordshire after Whitehall officials agreed a deal between local firms and the county and district councils.

The project is being led by Innovate UK – a government body answering to the Department of Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – and has seen a total of £22.4m appropriated to different projects across the county, with the Oxfordshire programme receiving £2.5m.

The 30-month trial will take place at industrial and science hub Milton Park, with the officials hoping the project can generate enough traffic to cope with around 50% of private travel in the park.

Business and energy minister, Richard Harrington, said: “This significant investment is a mark of the innovation that is at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“The development of new technologies is a cornerstone of the UK’s world-class science and research and will ensure that we deliver a Britain fit for the future by creating jobs and the skills needed to succeed.”

MultiCAV, the consortium chosen to run the project, is being run between private transport firms and the local authorities and comes in addition to the Didcot Garden Town plan.

“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,” explained Yvonne Constance, Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet member for environment and economy.

“The county council has been keen on including innovation in the delivery of Didcot Garden Town from the very start and this project will be one of the first to demonstrate the approach and further enhance Oxfordshire’s place as a world leader in applied learning and development of AVs.”

In addition to the county council, Innovate UK has also agreed to work alongside the Vale of White and South Oxfordshire district councils.

The organisation’s chief executive, Ruth McKernan, said the impact of the project would “benefit our thriving automotive industry and the economy as a whole.”

John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, added: “The funding will deliver an exciting regular commercial service, using innovative transport, to connect residents, visitors and workers to the surrounding business community based on Milton Park – one of the main principles in the Didcot Garden Town plan.”

The plan will see commuters to the site able to connect with the self-driving pods from local transport, with Didcot Parkway station and other public transport services nearby.

Matthew Barber, leader of the Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “Science Vale UK is already renowned for creating state-of-the-art technology and, along with our business partners, we are delighted to receive the Innovate UK grant that confirms our ambitions to establish the Science Vale at the forefront of bringing zero emission autonomous public transport to our region.”

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