Government backs self-driving shuttles rollout in Sunderland


1st February 2023

Topic Infrastructure, Transport
Technology Autonomous Vehicles
Sector Infrastructure, Transport
  • Self-driving, zero emission HGVs awarded funding from the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme. The world’s first full-sized, self-driving bus service is among the projects being awarded funding from the UK government.
  • Automated vehicles to operate around the Nissan site in Sunderland, while a self-driving shuttle service will be piloted in the city.
  • £84 million in combined government and industry funding is being made available for commercial self-driving passenger and freight services, which could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel improving especially for those who don’t drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error.

Self-driving vehicles will help deliver passengers and cargo in and around Sunderland, after two projects based there were awarded a share of £84 million in joint government and industry support for self-driving transport technology. £42 million in government funding is being matched by a further £42 million from industry.

Project V-CAL, being led by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), will run up to 4 zero-emission autonomous HGVs around the Nissan Sunderland site, on private roads where the vehicles will navigate traffic lights, roundabouts, and other road users. This is a major step towards deploying the technology on public roads. 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.

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.

The projects are two of seven successful projects from around the UK, which form the most advanced set of commercial, self-driving passenger and freight operations anywhere in the world.

The grants, part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme, will help British companies seize early opportunities to develop experimental projects into offerings ready for the market.

Business Secretary Grant Shapps said: “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. 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.”

Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity.

“We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”

Paul Butler, CEO at the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “The North East region is uniquely placed to develop, test and commercialise Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) projects. 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.”

Liz St Louis, director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Leveraging the power of 5G technology and Sunderland’s leading smart city infrastructure, the focus of our ambitious project partners is underpinned by an ethos of leaving no one and nowhere behind.

“Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits across the world and we’re hugely optimistic about a technology-fuelled future, powered by local expertise, right here in Sunderland.”

Almost £600,000 is also being awarded for feasibility studies, looking into how self-driving technology could improve public transport in four parts of the UK. These projects will look into potential routes where automated vehicles could operate exclusively from other traffic, to relieve congestion on the A414 through Hertfordshire and Essex, parts of Eastern Cambridge, Birmingham and Solihull, and Milton Keynes.

Self-driving vehicles could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel, especially for those who don’t drive, better connect rural communities and reduce road collisions caused by human error. Forecasts predict that by 2035, 40% of new UK car sales will have self-driving capabilities, with a total market value for connected and automated mobility worth £41.7 billion to the UK. This could create nearly 40,000 skilled jobs in connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technology.

The government is also committed to introducing legislation that will enable the safe and timely rollout of self-driving vehicles on UK roads. Under a proposed ‘safety ambition’ for self-driving vehicles to be equivalent in safety to a competent and careful human driver, vehicles will need to meet certain standards to be allowed to ‘self-drive’ on the roads throughout the lifetime of the vehicle. Organisations overseeing self-driving vehicles could face sanctions if standards are not maintained.



Notes to Editors

The government is awarding almost £42 million to 7 projects through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) competition. Industry consortia will match the public grant to around £84 million and will be expected to demonstrate a sustainable commercial service by 2025.
Full details of the winning projects:

CAVForth II – Fusion Processing
£5.2 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £10.4 million. This project will allow Stagecoach to launch what is believed to be the world’s most complex full-sized automated bus service, running along a 14 mile route, and building on a pilot project that is nearing completion. This project will test and refine the commercial service model, from the current ‘Captained’ service, with a staff member onboard, to future deployments with smaller vehicles which could operate with no staff on board.

Project partners include: Stagecoach Group PLC, Alexander Dennis Limited, University of the West of England, and Edinburgh Napier University.

V-CAL – North East Automotive Alliance
£4 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £8 million. V-CAL will scale and expand the initial, part government-funded 5G CAL proof of concept, by deploying connected and automated logistics (CAL) technology at scale in two real-world, industrial settings:

  • Replacing all heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) on a trial route on private land with zero-emission HGVs retrofitted with CAL technology.
  • A challenging public road route where the self-driving HGV will encounter traffic lights, roundabouts, security gates, bridges and other road users.

Project partners include: Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, ANGOKA, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK).

Hub2Hub – HVS
£6.6 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £13.2 million. This project will deliver an all-new automated HGV for the UK market. HVS’ innovative HGV will decarbonise one of the biggest polluting sectors on our roads, working in partnership with Fusion Processing Ltd to expediate the development of Hub-to-Hub autonomous driving technology with Fusion’s automated drive systems, delivering never-seen-before levels of efficiency and operational cost savings for logistics operators, as well as providing new employment opportunities.

The deployment trial of the autonomous HGV, planned for September 2024, will demonstrate this service for a leading retailer to elevate public perception, showcasing the potential autonomy can deliver thanks to increased safety and fuel savings, and develop new business models.

Project partners include: Asda Stores Limited and Fusion Processing Ltd.

Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle – City of Sunderland Council
£3 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £6 million. This project will research, build, trial and evaluate the deployment of a highly automated, remotely supervised, zero-emission passenger mobility service in the City of Sunderland. This will increase connectivity between a key transport interchange (bus, rail and metro) and two high-volume destinations: the University of Sunderland City Campus and Sunderland Royal Hospital.

Project partners include: Stagecoach North East, ANGOKA Ltd, Aurrigo (Richmond Design and Marketing Ltd), Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications

Project Harlander – Belfast Harbour
£5.5 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £11 million. The Harlander project will establish Northern Ireland’s first operationally ready, scalable, and commercially viable deployment of a fully automated shuttle service on mixed-use public roads. The service will utilise a ground-breaking, multi-purpose automated vehicle that enables a cost-effective scaling of passenger services and the introduction of a goods delivery service.

Project partners include: Horiba MIRA Ltd, ANGOKA Ltd, BT Ltd, and REE Automotive UK Ltd. The engagement with aforesaid project partners is subject to a consortium collaboration agreement, which is expected to be signed soon.

Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility – Conigital
£8.3 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £16.4 million. This project looks to establish a self-driving vehicle operation around various parts of the West Midlands, underpinned by a centralised, Remote Monitoring Teleoperation (RMTO) centre. The RMTO centre will be where the project’s self-driving vehicles are monitored and (when required) controlled from, using 5G connectivity. The project aims to make self-driving vehicle operations commercially viable, and offset current technology and driver costs.

Project partners include: National Exhibition Centre Ltd, Direct Line Group, Coventry City Council, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, University of Warwick, Coventry University, dRisk AI, IPG Automotive and West Midlands Combined Authority

Project Cambridge Connector – Greater Cambridge Partnership
£8.7 million awarded by government, matched by industry to a total £17.4 million. The Cambridge project will pilot on-demand self-driving vehicles. Up to 13 electric vehicles will provide passenger services that integrate with existing transport services within Cambridge across two sites: Cambridge University’s West Cambridge Campus and the Cambridge Biomedical Campus.

The lead partner Greater Cambridge Partnership is the local delivery body for a City Deal with central government, and working in partnership with Cambridgeshire County Council, Cambridge City Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council and University of Cambridge.

Project partners include: dRisk AI Ltd, Stagecoach East, IPG Automotive UK, Conigital Ltd and Gamma Energy as well as the Greater Cambridge Partnership.

A total of £586,000 is being awarded 4 projects through the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM): Mass Transit Feasibility Studies competition. Full details of the winning projects:

Dedicated Driverless Spaces for Integrated Mass Transit – City Science Corporation
£142,000 awarded. This project aims to use segregated, “Dedicated, Driverless” spaces for The Hertfordshire Essex Rapid Transit (HERT) route: the A414 between Hemel Hempstead and Stansted Airport. Roads that would benefit from segregated self-driving vehicle operations have been identified using previous research conducted by the project team for the National Infrastructure Commission.

Cambridge Autonomous Rapid Transport – Cambridgeshire County Council
£92,000 awarded. The project will explore the potential of Connected and Automated Mobility Technology to support the delivery of a new development and solve existing challenges of overly congested roads, and homes and job creation, in a dense and urban area. The Cambridge Autonomous Rapid Transit corridor would run through eastern Cambridge. The corridor will link the Newmarket Road Park & Ride facility (Newmarket Road / Airport Way) through the Cambridge Airport site with Cambridge Station.

East Birmingham North Solihull Automated Shuttle Service – West Midlands Combined Authority
£151,000 awarded. This project aims to develop an independently verified case for a segregated transit corridor using automated, platooning shuttle vehicles using tyre-on-tarmac technology. The study will consider traditional rail-based requirements, and associated capital and operational costs that can be removed versus new requirements and costs that will be required. East Birmingham North Solihull Metro segregated transit corridor would link the commercial centres of East Birmingham and ‘The Hub’ North Solihull, connecting deprived communities.

Milton Keynes Advanced Very Rapid Transport – Milton Keynes Borough Council
£200,000 awarded. Advanced Very Rapid Transit (AVRT) is a new concept in mass transit, using automated vehicles running on purpose-designed, physically segregated pathways. The study will look into how AVRT could deliver fast, frequent and reliable public transport services, focusing on a small number of key corridors extending out to a radius of 25-30 km around Milton Keynes.