Driverless electronic pods will be trialled on public roads near Didcot following plans to halve car usage at Milton Park.
The pilot will be the first use of fully connected and autonomous vehicles on public roads in the UK.
Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, announced the award of £2.5million in funding to trial the self-driving vehicles at Milton Park.
Commuters will be able to travel in the electric-powered pods on public roads that link Milton Park with nearby transport services.
John Cotton, leader of South Oxfordshire District Council, said the driverless pods are “one of the main principles in the Didcot Garden Town plan”.
He added: “The funding will deliver an exciting regular commercial service, using innovative transport, to connect residents, visitors and workers to the surrounding business community based on Milton.”
The Didcot Garden Town master plan includes a north-south route dedicated to sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling, e-bikes and autonomous pods.
Most travel between Didcot Parkway station and the large science and business hub is made in private vehicles, but the project seeks to
reduce car usage within the site by half.
The 30-month project will be undertaken by a consortium of organisations from different backgrounds who are investing in the development of autonomous vehicles, led by UK transport operator FirstGroup.
John Birtwistle, project lead for FirstGroup, said: “We’re excited to be leading the first mainstream use of autonomous vehicles in the UK.
“By connecting the Milton Park development with the existing regional transport infrastructure, including Great Western Railway trains at Didcot Parkway station, commuters will see a tangible reason to leave their cars at home.
“It’s a huge step towards tackling the problem of congestion on our roads and enabling the sustainable future development of the business park and, potentially, other similar sites in the future.”
Matthew Barber, leader of Vale of White Horse District Council, said: “We are delighted to receive the Innovate UK grant that confirms our ambitions to establish the Science Vale at the forefront of bringing zero emission autonomous public transport to our region.”
In October 2016, a driverless vehicle equipped with Oxford-developed autonomy software was tested successfully in public for the first time in the UK.