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Work begins on autonomous vehicle trial route

Work has begun on the 300km Midlands Future Mobility test environment – spanning from Coventry to Birmingham. It will see autonomous vehicles trialled on urban, rural, suburban and highway roads. The project is run by an assocation of companies including WMG at the University of Warwick, MIRA, AVL, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Coventry University and Highways England.

The autonomous vehicle industry is estimated to be worth up to £62bn to the UK economy by 2030, and the West Midlands is hoping to lead the, as WMG here at the University begins work on autonomous vehicle testing routes.

Autonomous vehicles will be trialled along the Midlands Future Mobility route, which has been developed by TfWM in collaboration with Coventry City Council, Birmingham City Council and Solihull Council. The route aims to fully assess vehicle performance in a wide range of real world locations and situations.The inside of a car on the route. Credit: Zenzic

The first types of vehicle to be trialled along the route will be “connected” vehicles. Connected vehicles can ‘talk’ to each other and warn of traffic, crashes and other hazards that other connected vehicles may have seen or be heading towards.

The vehicles on the Midlands Future Mobility route will not be driving themselves during the early stages of research. At first they will have a driver and occasionally a second person monitoring how the vehicles are working. All testing will be as safe if not safer than current vehicles on the road.

The route includes infrastructure such as smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units, and highly accurate GPS.

In the future autonomous vehicles will be trialled on the route, however these will also be closely monitored by safety operators ready to take over immediately in the event of a problem. These autonomous vehicles will appear gradually as more and more advanced “Driver Assistance” systems are tested paving the way, such as lane centring and auto-speed limiting technology.

The route itself causes no disruption to drivers or the homes along it, as it uses existing road infrastructure 95% of the time. Phase one of the route includes roads on our University campus, Coventry ring road, and roads in Meriden, Solihull and central Birmingham around the Jewellery Quarter.

Later this year the route will be extended to include rural and highway roads and span up to 350km. The route will officially open for trials later this year.

John Fox, Project Director, Midlands Future Mobility said:

“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.”