DRIVERLESS buses will be getting people to work in Solihull and to the NEC by next year.
Passengers will be able to use the buses between Birmingham International rail station and Birmingham Business Park through the NEC Birmingham, as part of a permanent commercial route.
This route forms part of a wider project which is being overseen by a regional consortium led by Conigital.
The Multi-Area Connected Automated Mobility (MACAM) project will also see a route between Coventry rail station and Coventry University campus.
A mixed fleet of 13 automated shuttles will serve the two new routes, and the scheme will be supported by a new centralised Remote Monitoring Teleoperation (RMTO) centre.
Operated by Transport for West Midlands, the RMTO centre will monitor the automated vehicles, and using 5G connectivity it will be able to control them when required.
The project aims to make self-driving vehicle operations commercially viable and to reduce technology and operator costs.
Solihull Council is expected to receive a £279,260 grant-funding to cover 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.
Previously Solihull Council has carried out driverless passenger trials at Birmingham Airport and the NEC, where the shuttle was also used in the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay.
Councillor Courts, leader of Solihull Council, said: “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.”