In Brief

Self-driving cars get £30m bump start

Chancellor says autonomous vehicles be in service on British roads by 2021

A new £30m fund, financed by industry and the Government, will accelerate the race to get autonomous cars onto British roads by 2021.

The fund will have a special focus on making parallel parking “a thing of the past”, according to Business Minister Richard Harrington, who says £5m of the total will go to research on automating the tricky manoeuvre.

While some cars can already assist with parking – in some cases by doing the steering while the driver works the pedals – none are able to control the whole process.

“Officials now estimate the driverless car industry will be worth £28bn to the economy by 2035 and support as many as 27,000 jobs,” reports the Daily Mail.

There is keen competition between several nations, including the UK and US, to get self-driving cars on the road. Chancellor Philip Hammond set the 2021 target for full autonomous operation in his autumn statement last year.

British tech firms are already developing the software needed to make computers drive more like humans. Working in six different towns and cities, FiveAI is focussing on helping them better understand and anticipate the actions of other road users.

And Oxford-based Oxbotica, the company behind the trials of driverless shuttles in Greenwich in 2017, is spending £12.6m on a project which will address safety and other challenges by co-ordinating robot drivers and let them learn from each other.

“For us, it’s all about moving from autonomous cars as single entities to how they work together as a fleet,” chief executive Graeme Smith told IT Pro.

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