Sunderland cashes in on autonomous project funding

Two new autonomous vehicle projects in Sunderland will receive funding as part of the UK’s Connected and Automated Mobility programme.

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Project V-CAL, being led by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), will run up to four zero-emission autonomous HGVs around Nissan’s Sunderland site, on private roads where the vehicles will navigate traffic lights, roundabouts, and other road users. The work, in partnership with Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, ANGOKA, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP, has been awarded £4 million by government, matched by industry to a total £8 million. The HGVs will operate without any personnel on board but will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup.

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“The North East region is uniquely placed to develop, test and commercialise Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) projects,” said Paul Butler, CEO at the North East Automotive Alliance. “It is home to a critical mass of local manufacturing industry, with ambitious growth plans. We are delighted to be awarded V-CAL project funding to be able to scale and expand the initial 5G CAL proof of concept, which ended in 2022, and provide two real industrial use cases for the scale and deployment of connected and autonomous logistics.

“The scale of commercial deployment for CAL is enormous, hundreds of thousands of similar logistic journeys are undertaken on private roads each day within the UK. This is an opportunity to build resilience in our important logistics sector and for the UK to take a leading role in the development and commercialisation of CAL technologies.”

Elsewhere, the Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will trial three self-driving zero emission Aurrigo Auto-Shuttles, which will transport passengers on public roads between Sunderland Interchange, the Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus. Whilst safety drivers will always be onboard, the project will develop and demonstrate a cyber secure remote supervision protocol, an important step towards commercial deployment. The project has been awarded £3m by the government, matched by industry to a total £6 million and is led by Sunderland City Council in partnership with Aurrigo, Stagecoach, ANGOKA Ltd, Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications.

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The grants are two of seven issued under the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Connected and Automated Mobility programme, where £42 million in government funding is being matched by a further £42 million from industry. It’s claimed the seven projects will form the most advanced set of commercial, self-driving passenger and freight operations anywhere in the world.

“In just a few years’ time, the business of self-driving vehicles could add tens of billions to our economy and create tens of thousands of jobs across the UK,” said Business Secretary Grant Shapps.This is a massive opportunity to drive forward our priority to grow the economy, which we are determined to seize.

“The support we are providing today will help our transport and technology pioneers steal a march on the global competition, by turning their bright ideas into market-ready products sooner than anyone else.”