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Autonomous trials to commence on UK roads later this year

Autonomous trials to commence on UK roads later this year


Autonomous vehicle trials are set to take place across 188 miles of UK roads later this year.

The Midlands Future Mobility project features a consortium of companies including Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), MIRA, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Costain, Amey, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Vodafone, Coventry University and Highways England.

The planned route has been designed with variety in mind, taking in inner-city, suburban and rural roads to better test the vehicles. Spanning from Coventry to Birmingham, the routes have been created to enable the vehicles to be tested in real-world situations and locations.

In addition, new equipment such as CCT cameras and communications are being installed along the route to help with the research.

Up first will be connected vehicles which can ‘talk’ to one another and inform other road users and cars about accidents or disruptions that they could be heading towards. The early stages of research will see a driver in the car to monitor the vehicle, and Midlands Future Mobility says that testing will be ‘as safe if not safer than current vehicles on the road’.

Mods with fully autonomous technology will be tested on the route in future, though these will also be closely monitored by operators sat in the car. They’ll be able to take control should an emergency arise. 

John Fox, project director at Midlands Future Mobility, said: “It is great to see that work has begun in making roads a more connected place, where drivers can make their journeys more safely and where goods can be delivered more efficiently.

“The West Midlands has a rich history of the automotive industry, and to see it is now progressing into autonomous vehicles feels somewhat momentous.”

Lease market sees significant growth for electric vehicles

The growth in popularity of electric vehicles in the lease market has resulted in a drop in overall leased car emissions, despite new testing procedures causing average petrol and diesel cars to register more than 10 per cent more CO2.

Despite electric vehicles making up just four per cent of all new car lease deals in Q4 2019, it represents a 750 per cent increase on the number registered during the same period in 2018.

electric car being charged

These zero-emission vehicles make a large impact on the salary sacrifice business sector, where they made up 24 per cent of all registrations. However, they represented just six per cent of business contract hires.

BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “The Q4 survey was the last conducted before the impacts of Brexit, the March 2020 Budget, the April 2020 tax changes and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It will be fascinating to see the effect that these huge external factors will have on the shape of the leasing market and the speed of transition to zero emission road transport. Our new, improved survey means that we can give members a clearer picture than ever before.”

The growth in popularity of electric vehicles led to the average CO2 emissions of leased vehicles at the end of 2019 chiming in at 113g/km - the lowest level since Q3 2019. It comes despite the introduction of new, stricter WLTP emissions testing regulations. The new tests have resulted in emissions figures rising between 10 and 20 per cent.

The ABT eTransporter is Volkswagen’s first electric van in the UK

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles is joining the EV race with the ABT eTransporter - the firm’s first electric van.

Created in collaboration with Volkswagen Group tuners ABT, the eTransporter delivers a range of up to 82 miles and a 0-80 per cent battery top-up time of under 45 minutes thanks to a 50kW maximum charge rate. 

However, despite the new powertrain Volkswagen states that the battery pack does not eat into cargo space, so it retains the same 6.7 cubic-metre load bay as the regular Transporter. The payload capacity, meanwhile, is 1,001kg.

Volkswagen e-Transporter

Powering the whole affair is a 109bhp electric motor, giving the eTransporter a 0-60mph time of 17.4 seconds, while regenerative braking has been fitted to help top up charge levels when on the move. The traditional tachometer has been replaced in the instrument binnacle with a power meter, relaying key information such as battery usage and charge levels back to the driver. 

Standard equipment on the van - which starts at £42,060 excluding VAT - includes a 6.5-inch infotainment system with DAB radio, Bluetooth and USB-C connectors in the dashboard. Driver assistance systems include autonomous emergency braking, rear parking sensors and crosswind assist.