An EU-backed consortium for developing automated driving launched today under the coordination of Volkswagen Group.

The research collaboration is to last four years. It includes 12 other major manufacturers from Audi and PSA to Toyota and Fiat, as well as suppliers, insurers and research institutes. The UK universities of Leeds and Warwick are also participating.

The consortium will operate a hundred vehicles with ten times as many drivers, testing on roads across eleven European countries.

Driving automation conditions will fall under levels 3 and 4, as per the taxonomy of industry association SAE International. Level 3 means the test driver sitting behind the wheel will intervene when prompted by the system, while level 4 implies the car to take appropriate action even if the driver does not.

Tests will include a variety of aspects and conditions including “parking and overtaking, … user acceptance, driving and travel behaviour, and the impact … on traffic and society”. Volkswagen called it “the first project worldwide to implement and test such comprehensive functions of automated driving in practice.”

Alongside self-driving technology, the project will also look to develop a regulatory framework for autonomous vehicles on public roads.

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The project budget has been set at €68m (£59.9m), with €36m of it coming from the European Commission.