Two projects developing self-driving technology in Sunderland have been awarded £14 million as part of a joint funding initiative between the UK government and industry. 

The Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will trial three self-driving, zero emission vehicles across the city – transporting passengers on public roads. Project V-CAL will run up to four zero-emission autonomous heavy-goods vehicles (HGVs) on private roads around Sunderland’s Nissan plant. 

The projects are part of a national plan to boost autonomous vehicle deployment across the UK, with £84 million in joint funding being distributed. 

“Leveraging the power of 5G technology and Sunderland’s leading smart city infrastructure, the focus of our ambitious project partners is underpinned by an ethos of leaving no one and nowhere behind,” said Liz St Louis, director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council. Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits across the world and we’re hugely optimistic about a technology-fueled future, powered by local expertise, right here in Sunderland.” 

The Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will receive £6 million to develop three self-driving, zero-emission Aurrigo shuttles, which will transport passengers between Sunderland Interchange, the Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus. 

The project will be led by Sunderland City Council and is in partnership with Aurrigo, Stagecoach, ANGOKA Ltd, Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications. 

The service is hoped to begin development in March and will begin a sustainable commercial service in 2024.  

Project V-CAL is being led by the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), and has been awarded £8 million in funding. 

The project is a partnership between Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, ANGOKA, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP. 

The HGVs will operate without any personnel on board but will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup. 

“Self-driving vehicles including buses will positively transform people’s everyday lives – making it easier to get around, access vital services and improve regional connectivity,” said UK Transport Secretary Mark Harper. “We’re supporting and investing in the safe rollout of this incredible technology to help maximise its full potential, while also creating skilled jobs and boosting growth in this important sector.”

Picture: Sunderland City Council