The government has launched what it is calling the UK’s biggest research programme dedicated to making autonomous systems safe and trustworthy for public use.

A £34m investment has been made to help develop robots capable of fulfilling tasks such as helping an elderly person up after a fall, delivering food to an older person at mealtimes, and ensuring they take crucial medication at the correct time.

Funded through the government’s Strategic Priority Fund and delivered by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the £34 million investment will help “tear down public trust barriers” by ensuring autonomous technologies like robots and self-driving vehicles are shown to be ethical, viable and safe.

It said one in seven people in the UK are now expected to be over 75 years old by 2040, and so-called ‘care robots’ could ease the pressure felt by the future adult social care sector.

The programme hopes to ensure future robot designs are better protected against cyber-attacks and can demonstrate principles like respect, fairness and equality.

It will provide developers, policy makers and regulators with access to experts, as well as to the latest information and guidelines around this technology.

In the healthcare sector, resulting applications, such as care robots, could work in tandem with professionals to assist and complement their work, and help relieve pressures.

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “It’s vital that we meet the needs of this ageing society, and through cutting edge research like this we will ensure that as technology advances, the UK leads the way in designing and adopting it, growing our status as a global science”

It is hoped that the programme’s findings will also be of use to the transport sector in improving public trust.

It said it expects self-driving cars to create 320,000 UK jobs, and deliver £51bn in economic benefits, and safer systems would encourage the uptake of the vehicles the next decades.