Driverless Cars Trial in the Westcountry

11 February 2015, 05:44 | Updated: 11 February 2015, 06:13

Trials to put driverless cars onto Bristol's roads are being launched by the Transport Minister and Business Secretary.

Venturer project

Claire Perry and Vince Cable come to the West Country to give the three year VENTURER project the green light to start testing the autonomous vehicles in the real world.

The group will begin trialing the modified Wildcat 4X4 on Bristol and South Gloucestershire council areas to explore how it will be possible to have driverless cars in the future.

In Bristol the project will investigate the legal and insurance aspects of driverless cars and explore how the public react to such vehicles.

Lee Woodcock is the project lead as well as the technology director for Atkins’ Highways & Transportation business, he's telling Heart: “This is an exciting time for the UK transport industry, driverless vehicles will bring about many benefits including reduced congestion, safer roads and access to mobility.

"This is new territory so over the next three years, the VENTURER consortium will look at what driverless vehicles could mean from a legal and insurance perspective as well as how these vehicles could impact on people’s behaviour and how the public might accept this new technology.”

Transport Minister Claire Perry said:

“Driverless cars are the future. I want the UK to be open-minded and embrace a technology that could transform our roads and open up a brand new route for global investment.

“I want the public to be comfortable that proper safeguards are in place and the Bristol trials will go a long way in helping us better understand the full implications of this exciting development.”

Listen to Heart's reporter Charlotte Gay go for a spin in the test vehicle.



The consortium’s autonomous vehicle, the BAE Systems Wildcat will be tested over three years on private and public roads, and is due to begin in early 2016.

The VENTURER consortium is made up of a range of organisations from across different sectors:

  • Atkins: lead partner, providing project co-ordination, delivery and intelligent mobility expertise
  • AXA UK:  insurance and legal expertise 
  • Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council: access to public roads and local road network intelligence
  • First Bus: as part of the work being done around driver assistance technologies, First will provide a bus as a means of collecting data
  • Fusion Processing: advanced sensor systems
  • Williams Advanced Engineering: driving simulator expertise
  • Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England: research on public expectations, acceptance and response
  • University of Bristol: car to infrastructure communications
  • Bristol Robotics Lab, University of the West of England & University of Bristol: hosting the trial centre and providing systems integration and decision-making algorithms

Other projects are going on around the country to see how driverless cars could fit into our every day lives.

The GATEway project will explore new forms of automated technology in Greenwich while the UK Autodrive project is being run in Milton Keynes and Coventry.