The Government is investing in projects to provide self-driving lorries and buses in Sunderland.

A total of £81 million in combined government and industry funding is being made available across the UK for commercial self-driving passenger and freight services, which could revolutionise public transport and passenger travel.

In the North East, Project V-CAL led by the North East Automotive Alliance, automated vehicles will be operated around the Nissan site in Sunderland, while the Sunderland Advanced Mobility Shuttle project will trial three self-driving zero emission buses, which will transport passengers between Sunderland Interchange, the Sunderland Royal Hospital, and the University of Sunderland City Campus.

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V-CAL, in partnership with Vantec, Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK), StreetDrone, Nokia, Newcastle University, ANGOKA, and Womble Bond Dickinson (UK) LLP has been awarded £4 million by government, matched by industry to a total £8 million.

The shuttle project, led by Sunderland City Council in partnership with Aurrigo, Stagecoach, ANGOKA Ltd, Newcastle University, Swansea University, and BAI Communications, has been granted £6 million.

The grants, part of the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Connected and Automated Mobility programme, will help North East companies seize early opportunities to develop experimental projects into offerings ready for the wider market.

The Northern Echo: The HGVs will operate without any personnel on board but will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backupThe HGVs will operate without any personnel on board but will be monitored by a remote safety driver as backup (Image: Press release)

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. This is a massive opportunity.”

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Paul Butler, CEO at the North East Automotive Alliance, added: "The scale of commercial deployment for Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) is enormous. This is an opportunity to build resilience in our important logistics sector.”

Liz St Louis, director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, said: “Leveraging the power of 5G technology and Sunderland’s leading smart city infrastructure, Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs) will provide huge social, industrial and economic benefits across the world and we’re hugely optimistic about a technology-fuelled future, powered by local expertise, right here in Sunderland.”