7th Jul, 2022

Coventry could become world capital for driverless cars, says West Midlands mayor

COVENTRY could become the world capital for driverless cars, says West Midlands mayor Andy Street.

Huge investment into cutting-edge technology could see Coventry take on Silicon Valley, China and Germany to win its rightful place at the centre of a new worldwide motor industry, he says.

Mr Street said local work to develop autonomous vehicles is creating a “technological renaissance” to complement the build-up to the City of Culture celebrations in 2021.

“Coventry has always been the very heart of the motor industry, and we have been working to make sure it will be the centre of the emerging global autonomous vehicle industry. There is a huge prize on offer,” he said.

“We are in a race with Silicon Valley, China, German cities like Stuttgart, and Detroit in the US to be the worldwide capital of the driverless car revolution – and Coventry is well on its way to that destination.

“We have put this ambition at the heart of our regional economic plans and have secured millions of pounds in Government money for research. There are now autonomous vehicles being tested on the roads of Coventry. It is happening,” he said.

As well as developing the futuristic vehicles, Coventry is being earmarked as the hub of the new industry’s support network.

“Coventry and Warwickshire are to be home to a new £80 million national centre for developing the batteries of the future – creating the technology to power electric cars – and we’ve just been given £20 million in the Budget to create what is being called the ‘data centre’ for autonomous vehicles,” Mr Street said.

“This would be the ‘brain’ of the network, controlling things like insurance and licensing, and will be housed at the Warwick Manufacturing Group.

“Finally, with the West Midlands pioneering the roll-out the 5G network, one of the major testbeds will be in Coventry, providing the vital connectivity for autonomous cars.”

This technological renaissance is one of many positive developments Mr Street, who heads the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) sees for Coventry in 2019.

Work is about to start on a major refurbishment of Coventry Railway Station, backed by WMCA cash, complementing Coventry City Council’s recent transformation of the area linking the station with the city centre and the Friargate development.

“We want the station to be a fitting arrival place for a city that is one the rise,” Mr Street said.

“The second office block for Friargate is also being made possible by WMCA investment. The diggers are in, the hoardings are up and the work is happening. We will see these improvements take shape in 2019.”

Put together, the WMCA’s investment in Friargate and the railway station amounts to more than £88 million, reinventing the city’s main arrival point in time for visitors to the City of Culture in 2021.

“I was pleased to have played my part in the City of Culture bid, by lobbying behind the scenes,” Mr Street said. “It gives Coventrians a wonderful opportunity to share in a great cultural experience. Now I’m determined to ensure that the region plays its part in helping Coventry prepare for it.”

It comes as Coventry and Warwickshire’s impressive economic growth outstrips the rest of the region, the mayor adds.

“I think economic success is often best seen in terms of opportunities for young people, and youth unemployment in Coventry has now fallen to below 1,000,” Mr Street said.

“These are exciting times in Coventry, there is a real sense of growth. There’s the technological renaissance, huge investment in the city and the building excitement towards the City of Culture – there are so many reasons to look forward to 2019 with real optimism.”

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