Driverless cars will be deployed on UK motorways in the next three years, a group of technology firms have announced.

The project, described as the most complex autonomous vehicle trial anywhere in the world, will culminate in driverless cars travelling from London to Oxford by 2019.

The Driven consortium said the vehicles will perform “all safety-critical driving functions” and monitor road conditions for an entire trip.

An £8.6 million grant from the Government will contribute towards the scheme.

Driverless journeys from the capital to Oxford will be a “public demonstration of the viability of this technology”, the UK Atomic Energy Authority said.

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A major part of the work will feature a fleet of six autonomous vehicles able to communicate with each other.

The project will examine data protection, cyber security and how driverless cars should be insured.

Dr Graeme Smith, chief executive of Oxford-based company Oxbotica, which is part of the consortium, said: “Today’s news is truly ground-breaking. No company, group or consortium of autonomy experts has ever attempted what Driven is planning over the next 30 months.

“We are seeking to address some of the most fundamental challenges preventing the future commercial deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.”

A Nissan driverless car being put through its paces
A Nissan driverless car being put through its paces (Philip Toscano/PA)


Professor Paul Newman, of Oxford University, said: “Driven is the first of its kind and brings a host of new questions surrounding the way these vehicles will communicate with each other.

“We’re moving from the singleton autonomous vehicle to fleets of autonomous vehicles and what’s interesting is what data the vehicles share with one another, when and why.”

Around 100 people travelled in a prototype shuttle on a two-mile route near London’s O2 Arena.

A passenger boarding a driverless service in Greenwich
A passenger boarding a driverless service in Greenwich (Victoria Jones/PA)


Members of the public were given the opportunity to test a driverless vehicle in the UK for the first time earlier this month.

The Government is investing £100 million in testing infrastructure to develop autonomous driving technology.

This will include the creation of a “cluster of excellence” along the M40 corridor, using existing testing centres in Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London.

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