The UK is set to trial connected and autonomous vehicles on suburban and highway roads later this year.

Work has started to prepare more than 300km of roads in the West Midlands to enable the trials.

The project is being conducted by a consortium of companies, which includes Highways England, WMG, MIRA, AVL, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), Costain, Wireless Infrastructure Group, Vodafone, Amey and Coventry University.

The initiative is expected to allow the stakeholders to assess the performance of the self-driving units under real-world situations.

Autonomous vehicles will be tested on the Midlands Future Mobility route, which will stretch from Coventry to Birmingham. Currently, phase one works on the route are underway.

It will feature several infrastructural upgrades such as smart CCTV, weather stations, communications units and highly accurate GPS, to facilitate the testing process.

Midlands Future Mobility project director John Fox said: “It is great to see that work has begun in making roads a more connected place, where drivers can make their journeys more safely and where goods can be delivered more efficiently.

“The West Midlands has a rich history of the automotive industry, and to see it is now progressing into autonomous vehicles feels somewhat momentous.”

Initially, connected vehicles will be trialled along the route. Such vehicles can communicate with each other and send alerts on traffic and other hazards.

During the early stages of research, all vehicles will have a driver and sometimes a second person to assess the performance of the car.

Later this year, the route will be extended up to 350km to include rural and highway roads.

Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “Connected and autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to radically change our lives, and I am pleased the West Midland is leading the way in this sector with research facilities and production plants already in place.”