70km test track "village" for self-driving vehicles opened near Bedford

Self-driving vehicles will be fine-tuned on 70km of test tracks in a new "Autonomous Village" in Millbrook, near Bedford.

Opened by the future of transport minister George Freeman on Wednesday, the facility includes a "simulator suite" for developers and a private mobile network for 5G testing.

Developers will test autonomous vehicles on the 70km of test track. Credit: Millbrook

Developers will test autonomous vehicles on the 70km of test track. Credit: Millbrook

The village has six purpose-built workshops to support mechanical, integration and software development for self-driving vehicles from passenger cars to buses.

It will be part of a network of autonomous test facilities across the country, coordinated by automated vehicle company Zenzic.

The Department for Transport said the centre “will allow developers to safely challenge systems and collect data, to help fine-tune software, sensors, 5G telecommunications and cyber security systems”.

On the first day of the Cenex Connected Automated Mobility Event, Freeman also launched a new safety regime called CAV Pass.

The government is developing the assurance system, which will first focus on enabling advanced trials, to ensure self-driving vehicles are safe and secure by design and minimise any defects ahead of their testing, sale and wider deployment on UK roads.

Advanced trials could include tests without any human operators or the assessment of novel vehicles such as pods and shuttles.

“Self-driving vehicles can offer significant rewards for the UK’s economy, road safety and accessibility,” said Freeman.

“We are determined to lead in the testing and development of safe autonomous transport.

"This is new terrain, and with our national expertise the UK is well-placed to blaze the trail globally by developing a global benchmark for assuring the safety and security of this exciting technology.”