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Self-driving vans, buses and shuttles could soon hit the UK’s roads following the launch today (23 May) of a £40m funding competition.

The move aims to kick-start commercial self-driving services, including delivery vehicles.

The ‘Commercialising Connected and Automated Mobility’ competition will provide grants to help roll out commercial use self-driving vehicles across the UK from 2025.

Announced by Lord Grimstone, Minister for Investment, the initiative aims to accelerate a new market for self-driving technology, which the government estimates could be worth £42bn to the UK economy by 2035 and create 38,000 new skilled jobs.

Types of self-driving vehicles that could be deployed include delivery vans, passenger buses, shuttles, and pods, as well as vehicles that move people and luggage at airports and containers at shipping ports.

Lord Grimstone said: “This funding will help unlock the incredible potential of this new and growing industry, building on the continued development of self-driving technology, attracting investment and helping make our transport cleaner, safer and more efficient.”

Michelle Gardner, Logistics UK acting deputy director of public policy, welcomed the move. She said: “The £40m government competition will help accelerate emerging technologies and with possible self-driving vehicles including those that move containers at shipping ports, as well as delivery vehicles, this is a welcome step forward.”

However, she warned that “safety and sustainability must remain a core focus alongside consideration to vital economic and business benefits”.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said: “Recent regulatory reforms have helped Britain establish itself as a leader in the rollout out of self-driving passenger vehicles, and today’s announcement is a significant step towards self-driving public transport and goods delivery services becoming a reality.

“This new funding competition will help drive innovation and, potentially, private investment in UK automotive, ensuring cutting-edge self-driving technology finds a clearer path to UK roads.”