West Midlands roads to be used to test new autonomous vehicles

Warwick University has announced that 300 kilometres of West Midland’s roads are to be used as part of a trial to test a new wave of autonomous vehicles.

Researchers suggest that the rise in autonomous vehicles could be the start of a new era of safer roads, predictable goods deliveries, and faster journey times.

A consortium has now launched a new project to test autonomous vehicles in the West Midlands, United Kingdom. The consortium of companies includes WMG, MIRA, AVL, Transport for West Midlands, Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Vodafone, Coventry University, and Highways England.

The Midlands Future Mobility route

Work has begun on the first phase of the Midlands Future Mobility route, which will extend from Coventry to Birmingham. The route will run through urban roads, inter-urban, and suburban roads, taking in key interchanges such as Birmingham International Airport and the new HS2 Hub in Birmingham. This variety of road types allows researchers to fully understand vehicle performance in real world locations.

The Midlands Future Mobility route will trial autonomous vehicles on 300km of land, which is soon to be extended to 350km. The route was developed by Transport for West Midlands in collaboration with Coventry City Council, Birmingham City Council and Solihull Council.

Connected vehicles

In the first round of trials researchers will be testing the route using ‘connected’ vehicles. Connected vehicles can communicate with each other to warn other vehicle users of traffic, car accidents, and other hazards.

In the early stages of the Midlands Future Mobility trials, vehicles will be manned by up to two individuals to ensure road safety and to monitor vehicle performance. Trial organisers have ensured the public that the first tests of this trial will be safe, if not safer than the use of standard cars.

Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, who leads TfWM, said: “Connected and autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to radically change our lives, and I am pleased the West Midland is leading the way in this sector with research facilities and production plants already in places.”

Smart routes for the West Midlands

To ensure the success of the trial, the route from Coventry to Birmingham will include infrastructure such as smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units, and highly accurate GPS.

The trial uses existing road infrastructure 95% of the time, however, researchers say that this route will cause no disruption to drivers and those who live in the homes near the road.

John Fox, Project Director, Midlands Future Mobility comments: “It is great to see that work has begun in making roads a more connected place, where drivers can make their journeys more safely and where goods can be delivered more efficiently.

“The West Midlands has a rich history of the automotive industry, and to see it is now progressing into Autonomous vehicles feels somewhat momentous.”

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