Project Synergy will see three self-driving cars trialled on public roads between Stockport railway station and Manchester Airport from January next year.
A standby ‘driver’ will travel in each autonomous car to take control if required. The driver can also use the cars’ voice-activated artificial intelligence system to request a destination, with software automatically checking local road conditions and travel times to select the quickest route.
The three-year project will explore whether self-driving vehicles can effectively reduce congestion, emissions and pollution, and offer innovative ways to improve road transport.
Testing of a Westfield sports car, one of the proposed autonomous vehicles, has already taken place on the A6 to Manchester Airport Relief Road, as the Government announced that the project is one of several self-driving vehicle ventures which won £5m from a share of £35m. The prize was offered by the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK, via the UK Government Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and the Department for Transport.
The consortium involved in the project includes Westfield Technology Group, Transport for Greater Manchester, Conigital, Stockport Council, Manchester City Council, Manchester Metropolitan University, Harper Adams University and Heathrow Airport
Tony Lloyd, interim mayor of Greater Manchester, said: “We’re always prepared to look at innovative solutions to the challenges sometimes faced by the travelling public and the critical issue of air pollution.
“Project Synergy is a really exciting initiative which could potentially lead in future to self-driving technologies being used in transport from buses to delivery vans.
“It’s just one of the ways in which we are continually working to make travel easier in Greater Manchester.”