Self-driving, zero emission HGVs are to be used at Nissan’s site in Sunderland and on private roads as part of an £84m project to revolutionise freight transport.
The government said it was a “massive opportunity” to grow the economy and help steal a march on the rest of the world.
Project V-CAL, being led by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), will run four zero-emission autonomous HGVs around the Nissan site and also on private roads where the vehicles will navigate traffic lights, roundabouts and other road users.
The work, in partnership with groups such as Vantec, Nokia and Newcastle University, as well as Nissan, has been awarded £4m by the government, matched by industry to a total of £8m and is part of an £84m investment into self-driving transport technology.
The HGVs will be operated without drivers in the cabs, but they will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup.
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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.
“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.”
Paul Butler, NEAA CEO, 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.
“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.”
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