The Leader of the Council, Cllr Ian Courts, has welcomed Transport Minister Trudy Harrison MP to Solihull, showcasing some of the cutting-edge work being carried out in the Borough in the development and use of Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).
As part of Solihull Council’s exciting Low Carbon Future Mobility project, supported by the West Midlands Combined Authority, an innovative project is currently underway to look at how zero-carbon, autonomous vehicles could meet some of the Borough’s transport needs in the future.
Last year, Solihull Council became the first local authority in the country to purchase its own fully electric autonomous shuttle with funds secured from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). In September 2021, Solihull became one of the first places in the UK to see driverless vehicles taking to its roads as part of new ground-breaking passenger trials of the shuttle, which took place at the NEC.
Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, has responsibility for the decarbonisation of travel and the future of transport, including the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles as part of her portfolio.
In the morning, the Minister, along with Cllr Ian Courts and Cllr Ken Hawkins (Cabinet member for Environment & Infrastructure), met with bosses at the ZF Hub in Blythe Valley Park, Shirley.
They discussed some of the pioneering work that ZF has been carrying out with CAVs here in Solihull, and what the role of CAV technology might look like in the future. ZF, a global leading automotive company, recently established a new office and technical centre in Solihull, boosting the Borough’s status as a rapidly expanding hub for advanced manufacturing and engineering.
Later that afternoon, the Minister travelled to Birmingham Airport, where she took part in a demonstration on Solihull Council’s own autonomous shuttle. The shuttle, manufactured by Coventry-based Aurrigo, can carry up to ten passengers and uses a suite of sensors to understand its surroundings, allowing it to move around safely, interacting with live traffic with little or no operator input.
Following on from the success of the initial Council-led passenger trials at the NEC last autumn, the autonomous shuttle will soon be deployed at Birmingham Airport in the second trial run of its kind. These trials will provide further knowledge and experience of self-driving shuttles in a real-world environment, as a step towards them becoming integrated into the Borough’s transport network.
Councillor Ian Courts, Leader of Solihull Council, said:
“It was a great pleasure to welcome Transport Minister Trudy Harrison MP to Solihull and to demonstrate how our Borough is right at the forefront of CAV technology.
“This technology has the potential to change the way we travel and I am confident it will eventually become a key part of our future transport system.
“Already home to an established well-performing research and advanced manufacturing sector, the potential for further growth in our Borough and the West Midlands in this emerging area is massive.
“I’m excited to get the next phase of our CAV trials at Birmingham Airport underway soon, so that we can continue to learn and build on the success from our previous passenger trials last autumn.”
Trudy Harrison, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, added:
“It was a pleasure to be in Solihull this week and see first-hand some of the innovative work that’s being done here to enhance the future of UK transport.
“Self-driving technology has the potential to revolutionise the way we get around our towns, cities and rural areas, while improving road safety by reducing accidents involving human error.
“It’s great to see the Council taking proactive steps in the deployment and testing of this emerging technology which is creating high-skilled jobs across the region while supporting our ambitious transport decarbonisation targets.”
Anita Bhalla, Interim Chair, Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) said:
“It’s fantastic that the Transport Minister visited Solihull to understand how our region is leading on emerging transport technology. We allocated £250,000 from our Local Growth Fund into this Solihull Council-led trial as we recognise the huge potential for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CAVs).
"It’s one way to help deliver clean growth to drive our local economy through creating jobs as well as helping achieve our local and national net zero targets. It also demonstrates how we use our unique triple helix structure of working with Local Authorities, business and academics to invest in projects that drive forward inclusive economic growth."
For more information about Solihull Council’s CAV trials visit www.solihull.gov.uk/cavtrials