Phase one of the route includes the Coventry ring road, University of Warwick campus, plus roads in Meriden, Solihull and central Birmingham.
Work has begun on the 300km Midlands Future Mobility test environment – spanning from Coventry to Birmingham, which will see autonomous vehicles trialled on urban, rural, suburban and highway roads.
The project is run by a consortium of companies including WMG, MIRA, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Vodafone, Coventry University and Highways England.
The autonomous vehicle industry is estimated to be worth up to £62bn to the UK economy by 2030, and hoping to lead the way to autonomous vehicles is the West Midlands, as WMG, University of Warwick begins work on autonomous vehicle testing routes.
Autonomous vehicles will be trialled along a route that provides over 300km of inner-city, suburban and rural roads from Coventry to Birmingham, on which to fully assess vehicle performance in a wide range of real-world locations and situations.
The first types of vehicle to be trialled along the route will be ‘connected’ vehicles that can ‘talk’ to each other and warn of traffic, crashes and other hazards that other connected vehicles may have seen or be heading towards.
Vehicles on the route will not be driving themselves during the early stages of research, initially, they will have a driver and occasionally a second person monitoring how the vehicles are working.
The route includes infrastructure such as smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units, and highly accurate GPS.
In the future, fully autonomous vehicles will be trialled on the route, 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 the University of Warwick, Coventry ring road, roads in Meriden, Solihull and central Birmingham.
Later this year, the route will be extended to include rural and highway roads and span up to 350km.
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.”
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street 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 place.
“I am determined our region will become a global leader in electric and autonomous vehicle technology, as I know we have the skills, facilities, and drive to compete with any other city or region in the world.
“Seeing our roads being used as a testbed for this new technology is both exciting and a step forward, and this vital research will help pave the way to bring key investment and jobs to the region as we look to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis.”