Oxfordshire will be government test site for driverless vehicles

We could see driverless pods like this one in Dallas, within months Credit: FirstGroup

The government has confirmed that the UK’s first trial of autonomous vehicles on public roads will take place in Oxfordshire.

Innovate UK has today announced the award of £2.5 million to trial self-driving vehicles in and around Milton Park, the large, high-tech business and science hub near Didcot.

Within months, the vehicles will travel between private roads at Milton Park and the public roads that link the site with nearby transport services.

The 30-month MultiCAV project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations with different sector backgrounds who are investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, and led by UK transport operator FirstGroup.

Despite being relatively close to Didcot Parkway station, most travel to and from Milton Park is currently made in private vehicles. With the site set to expand in the coming years, the MultiCAV consortium is building on the work already underway to provide the park with long-term, safe sustainable transport.

Commuters to the site will be able to connect with the self-driving pods from local transport services, while booking and paying for their trip in one easy process.

It is hoped that by the end of the trial up to 50% of private vehicle journeys within the business park will switch to using the shared, electric-powered pods.

This driverless electric bus was launched in Japan in December 2017 Credit: PA

The MultiCAV consortium comprises:

  • FirstGroup (overall coordination and project lead)

  • Arrival (manufacturer of electric vehicles)

  • Zipabout (MaaS system developers)

  • Milton Park (providers of infrastructure in business park

  • South Oxfordshire District Council (local planning authority)

  • Vale of White Horse District Council (local planning authority)

  • Oxfordshire County Council (local transport authority)

  • The University of the West of England (user evaluation)

  • Nova Modus (autonomous transport consultants)