Continuing to build on its reputation at the leading edge of Connected Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology, Solihull is set to benefit from joint government and industry funding to deliver an exciting new project.
Solihull Council has secured funds, with leading autonomous technology provider Conigital, for a pioneering development project which will see automated shuttles ferrying passengers between Birmingham International rail station and Birmingham Business Park through the NEC Birmingham, seeking to establish a new permanent commercial route.
The proposed route forms a key part of a wider project being overseen by a regional consortium led Conigital. The Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility (MACAM) project will also see a similar route rolled out between Coventry rail station and Coventry University campus.
The two new routes will be served by a mixed fleet of 13 automated shuttles and underpinned by a new centralised, Remote Monitoring Teleoperation (RMTO) centre operated by Transport for West Midlands. The RMTO centre will be used to monitor the project’s automated vehicles and (when required) control them, using 5G connectivity. The landmark project aims to make self-driving vehicle operations commercially viable and offset current technology and operator costs.
A total of £42 million has been awarded by government and then matched by private industry to fund a range of projects across the country, intended to demonstrate sustainable commercial CAV services by 2025. As part of the Conigital led MACAM project in the West Midlands, Solihull Council is expected to receive £279,260 of grant-funding to include revenue for project managing vehicle deployment within Solihull, as well as capital funds for installing roadside technology to allow effective operation of the vehicles. Additional funds have also been secured to carry out an early feasibility study into providing a CAV service between East Birmingham North Solihull (EBNS) as part of a separate project. This will look at the proposed EBNS transit corridor which could connect the forthcoming HS2 Interchange Station in Solihull to Birmingham City Centre.
Solihull Council has already established itself as a key player in this emerging sector. In 2021 it became the first local authority in the country to purchase its own electric and fully autonomous shuttle, using a grant from the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP). Since then, successful passenger trials have been carried out at both Birmingham Airport and the NEC, where the shuttle was also used in the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. Building on the success of these deployments, there are plans for further trials with the shuttle to get underway at Birmingham Business Park next later this month.
Cllr Courts, Leader of Solihull Council:
“Connected Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology has the potential revolutionise the way we get around, as well as how we transport goods. Working with our partners we are excited to be leading the way, not just in Solihull, but regionally and across the country, in providing learning on CAV deployments in different setting and scenarios.
“We’ve already carried out a series of successful pathfinder trials here in Solihull, using our own automated shuttle. We have shown how it is possible to practically and safely incorporate automated vehicles into key parts of our transport infrastructure. However, this next step will help develop our understanding around the commercial viability of self-driving operations, and the influence that central RMTO and shared fleets, could have on future business cases.
“Taking place across one of the best-connected destinations in the UK and Europe, this new Solihull-based route will join up three key assets within the UK Central Hub area, operating in a busy but controlled environment and gaining further real-world operating experience.
“Alongside the exciting opportunities CAV technology represents in terms of improving future transport and connectivity, this emerging industry also offers our well-established local research and advanced manufacturing sector huge potential for further economic growth in our Borough and across the West Midlands.”
Conigital CEO, Don Dhaliwal commented:
“We are excited to work with such a forward-looking council such as Solihull and other partners to accelerate a joint vision of Autonomous, Connected, Electric & Shared (ACES) fleets to address the cities and businesses needs to Go Zero, Zero Accidents, Zero Emissions and Zero Congestion for a safer and cleaner and more climate conscious future whilst creating new jobs via delivery of sustainable, accessible commercial CAV services.”
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and WMCA Chair, said:
“As a region, we’re already leading the way when it comes to the development of transport technology and future oriented autonomous vehicle systems - more often than not backed by our cutting edge 5G connectivity and sometimes linked to our innovative Very Light Rail project.
“These schemes will collectively play a central role in our #WM2041 net zero commitment as we deliver on the promise of a green transport revolution in the months and years ahead.
"This latest funding announcement is yet another huge vote of confidence in the West Midlands - and Solihull in particular - as we take the next steps towards testing and delivering a commercially viable CAV programme.”