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Multimillion pound boost accelerates North East self-driving tech


Two self-driving technology projects in Sunderland have been awarded a share of £84m to “revolutionise” transport.

Project V-CAL, which is led by North East Automative Alliance (NEAA), has won £8m to trial zero-emission autonomous HGVs around Nissan Sunderland.

And £6m has been awarded to Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle to trial 3 self-driving zero emission Shuttles, to transport passengers between Sunderland Interchange, the Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus.

Both projects will be using BAI Communications’ 5G network.

“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,” stated Business Secretary Grant Shapps.

“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.”

Project V-CAL will run up to 4 autonomous HGVs around the Nissan Sunderland site, on private roads where the vehicles will navigate traffic lights, roundabouts, and other road users.

This is seen as a major step towards deploying the technology on public roads. It has received £4m from the government, which has been matched by industry funding to take it to the total of £8m.

The vehicles will operate without a human on board, but they will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup.

“The North East region is uniquely placed to develop, test and commercialise Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) projects,” explained 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 Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will use Aurrigo Auto-Shuttles on public roads. Safety drivers will always be onboard, but the 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.

“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,” added Liz St Louis, Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council.

“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.”

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