As part of the Solihull Council’s Low Carbon Future Mobility project, which is supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, an innovative scheme is underway to look at how zero-carbon, autonomous vehicles could be integrated into the borough’s transport network in the future. With significant development in automation technology in recent years, the trials will involve what is effectively a fully electric eco-friendly mini-bus, capable of operating both manually and autonomously on the road.
The exciting two-year trial scheme will see the Council work in partnership with a range of organisations to demonstrate real-world uses and learn about the technology with the aim of understanding how in the future residents and visitors might be offered new means of zero emission shared transport and an alternative to single occupancy car journeys.
Last year Solihull Council successfully bid for funding to the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) for the purchase of one road-legal connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) with which to deliver the scheme, with the support of Transport for West Midlands.
Permission was granted last night at the Council’s Growth and Infrastructure Delivery Decision Session for the project team to enter into future partnerships with both public and private sector organisations to set up trials. Work will now commence to move the project forward.
Cllr Ted Richards OBE Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Growth and Infrastructure Delivery, said:
“CAVs might seem like something out of a sci-fi film but the technology is here and it offers an exciting opportunity to reduce the number of single occupancy car journeys made across the borough, replacing them with a zero carbon shared alternative. The really exciting thing about this technology is its longer term potential to make mass low carbon transport in the borough more accessible.
“It’s important to note that while this vehicle will be driven autonomously, there will be a human operator on hand at all times to ensure safety and it can be manually driven at any point when required.”
Cllr Andy Mackiewicz - Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Planning & Housing, said:
“The Low Carbon Future Mobility project forms part of a wider strategic approach we are developing to decarbonising the borough in line with our Climate Declaration ambitions of: Net Zero for the Council’s own operations by 2030 and Net Zero for the wider borough by 2041.
“We know that transport currently accounts for 39% of CO2 emissions across the borough, making it the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Almost all of this is due to road transport. Tackling our carbon emissions is going to require decisive and far reaching action but addressing our transport emissions will be vital. It also offers exciting opportunities for us all to make positive changes to the way we live, work and travel, encouraging us to embrace new technologies such as this.”
To find out more about the Council’s plans for tackling carbon emissions and help shape their Action Plan go to https://netzerosolihull.co.uk/
Tim Pile - Chair of Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership said:
“GBSLEP’s investment in the Connected Autonomous Vehicle (CAV) project comes at a time when the government is driving forwards ambitions of a green industrial revolution. The potential to reduce CO2 emissions and reduce congestion through shared occupancy CAV, will have an impact on the way we all travel in the future.
“At GBSLEP, Low Carbon is identified as a high growth area for businesses and we are leading on a sector recovery plan as part of the West Midlands Industrial Strategy. Our investment acknowledges the huge potential of CAV and we are keen to encourage market growth in this fast growing sector.
“This project is an example of how we have worked with Solihull Council, one of our partner organisations, to allocate money from our Local Growth Fund to drive forwards an inclusive and green economic recovery in our region.”