The UK government has set up a £25 million fund for self-driving car projects with the aim of getting them on roads by 2020.

The Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV), set up by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport in 2015, has a fund of up to £25 million to put into as many as four self-driving pilot schemes.

Any pilot schemes entering the competition to win funding will need to be serious affairs, with the CCAV requiring commercial viability, business plans and the ability to test vehicles in real-world situations.

According to the CCAV, the projects should test themselves against three criteria: ‘the technologies against a clear user need; public acceptance of the technologies; the business models that will deliver the service.’

Testing will be carried out in Bristol, Coventry, Greenwich and Milton Keynes, and pilots accepted onto the scheme will be trialled for at least six months in public or in a ‘semi-controlled’ environment.

Self-driving projects

The vehicles are required to meet level 4 automation in the Society of Automotive Engineer’s (SAE) scale. In this scale, level 0 is no automation at all and level 5 is complete automation. As such, companies that are allowed to let their cars loose on the roads will have a significant responsibility to the public in terms of safety.

Major companies have come under significant media spotlight recently following high-profile fatalities in their self-driving car tests. A Tesla car which crashed, killing its driver, Apple engineer Wei Huang, was recently found to have sped up and moved towards a crash barrier in the final seconds before impact.

Uber has also had problems after a pedestrian was killed during testing. Despite these problems, the level of investment, both from government schemes such as this and private companies, ranging from disruptors like Uber and Tesla to century-old marques such as Mercedes and Volkswagen, means that self-driving cars are likely here to stay.