The British government is offering up £25m for a half dozen industrial projects designed to test self-driving – and self-parking – car technology.
The Meridian project will fund up to six infrastructure projects to "develop connected and autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure for automated parking and interurban automated driving on rural roads and highways", according to the government.
Two of the funded projects are intended to create "two permanent self-driving test sites" in Blighty, building on the government's aspirations for the UK to become a world leader in autonomous vehicle technology with self-driving vehicles on the road by 2021.
"The UK is already leading the way in developing this technology and today's funding will bring self-driving vehicles one step closer to becoming a normal feature on UK roads and could, in time, make learning to parallel park a thing of the past," said business minister Richard Harrington in the usual canned quote.
He was joined by Graham Hoare, of the Automotive Council, who also happens to be Ford's director of global vehicle evaluation. Hoare said: "On behalf of the Automotive Council, I welcome the latest developments at Meridian Mobility Technology, the UK's CAV Development Capability. Meridian continues the acceleration of the UK's CAV development facilities with the announcement of important partnerships as part of the latest outcomes of the TestBed program, Wave 2&3. These new capabilities will complement our strengthening UK Test capability with the advantage of a 'one-stop shop' mindset for the industry."
Some British firms have already started work on self-parking car tech, including those in the UK Autodrive consortium, which is trialling its version in Milton Keynes. On a more advanced level, German car parts maker Bosch is perhaps slightly ahead of the UK's efforts, having a workable prototype that it felt confident enough to demonstrate in front of the world's press at its annual shindig in Berlin.
£5m of the government's funding will be dedicated towards creating a "data exchange capability that will provide a commercial marketplace for [connected and autonomous vehicle] data". We are told that this data will be "accessible and shareable" while "maintaining privacy and security", which sounds to your correspondent like someone's trying to please everyone simultaneously. ®