A new safety regime for self-driving vehicles has been announced by future of transport minister George Freeman.

To ensure self-driving vehicles are safe and secure by design, and to minimise any defects ahead of their testing, sale and wider deployment on UK roads, the government is developing an assurance system using the expertise in vehicle safety and cyber security within government, industry and academia.

The minister also officially opened the Autonomous Village, a self-driving vehicle test facility at Millbrook-Culham with 70km of secure test tracks, a private mobile network and a simulator suite.

This will be part of a network of self-driving vehicle test facilities across the country, co-ordinated by UK automated vehicle company Zenzic. The new ground will allow developers to safely test systems and collect data, to help fine-tune software, sensors, 5G telecommunications and cyber security systems.

Speaking at the Cenex-Low Carbon Vehicle conference, Freeman said: “Self-driving vehicles can offer significant rewards for the UK’s economy, road safety and accessibility. 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.”

Director of campaigns for road safety charity Brake, Joshua Harris said: “Connected and autonomous vehicles have enormous potential to eliminate driver error and help put an end to the daily tragedy of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. The technology and its potential is hugely exciting but it’s critical that these vehicles are robustly tested for safety before allowing them on our roads. We support the leading role being played by UK government on this important agenda for safe mobility and the safety assurance regime will undoubtedly be fundamental to its future success.”