A new test facility for self-driving vehicles has been officially opened to ensure their safety before their arrival on UK roads.

Minister of State for the Future of Transport Minister, George Freeman, opened the Autonomous Village, a self-driving vehicle test facility at Millbrook-Culham.

The opening marks the Government’s work to develop a safety assurance system that will check self-drive vehicles for design safety and security and minimise any defects ahead of their testing, sale and wider deployment on UK roads.

The village has 70km of secure test tracks, a private mobile network and a simulator suite. It will form part of a network of self-driving vehicle test facilities across the country, co-ordinated by UK automated vehicle company Zenzic.

“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.”

The new safety assurance system will first focus on enabling the advanced trialling of self-driving vehicles and aims to eventually help assure the safety and security of these vehicles for their mainstream sale and use. Advanced trials may include those without a human operator in the loop at all times, or the assessment of novel vehicle types such as pods and shuttles.