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Driverless cars project launching in Milton Keynes

New investment has been announced for high-tech, low-carbon projects, including a £75m fund has to speed up green technology development and the launch of a driverless cars project.

Pilot projects of the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) will be chosen through a competition run by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) to make and test low carbon technologies.

The government is also providing £15m to fund the first driverless cars project in Milton Keynes. Driverless pods will carry two people each and run on designated pathways in the city centre. By 2015, 20 pods will be driver-operated and by 2017, 100 fully autonomous pods will run on pathways using sensors to avoid obstacles.

Arup, Transport Systems Catapult, The Automotive Council, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities are collaborating on this project.

Business secretary Vince Cable said: “By 2050, very few – if any – new cars will be powered solely by the traditional internal combustion engines, so it is important that the UK car industry is at the cutting edge of low carbon technologies. The Advanced Propulsion Centre, launched as part of our Industrial Strategy, will help to position the UK as a leading innovator while securing jobs and strengthening supply chains.

“Driverless cars are another invention that has the potential to generate the kind of high-skilled jobs we want Britain to be famous for, as well as cutting congestion and pollution and improving road safety.

“The car industry has gone from strength to strength – with 1 vehicle rolling off a production line somewhere in the UK every 20 seconds. But we must look at the long-term challenges and opportunities to ensure the sector continues to succeed and grow.”

John Miles, programme director and Arup consultant, said: “With the continually increasing number of people living in cities, city authorities are facing some real challenges with regards to ensuring future levels of mobility. This project has the potential to deliver a truly autonomous low carbon transport option within the context of a city centre and we’re delighted to be using this funding to take the project into the first stages of design.”

TSB chief executive Iain Gray said: “The APC is a key element of the joint government-industry strategy for the automotive sector. This competition will fund a number of projects that will strengthen UK capability as well as developing the UK’s propulsion systems supply chain. As such the APC represents a new way to embed innovation further into the UK automotive sector, helping us gain a competitive edge in this industry.”

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