Cars of the future could be programmed to spot potholes and automatically transmit the information to Highways England, according to the government agency.
In a new report published today (13 Dec), Highways England says an ‘intelligent network coupled with connected vehicles’ would ‘improve how efficiently roads are maintained’ and at the same time improve safety.
The Strategic Road Network Initial Report outlines eight aspirations for the period 2020-25, including a focus on maintenance and renewals, building the smart motorway spine of the network and the roll out of ‘expressways’ which, according to Highways England, will ‘provide many of the benefits of a motorway performance road without the conventional costs’.
With regard to maintenance, Highways England is currently funding a pilot project by the Nottingham Transport Engineering Centre to create ‘self-healing roads’.
Laboratory tests and pilot trials show that mixing capsules of oil into the asphalt used for resurfacing has the potential to increase the lifespan of roads by at least a third.
When cracks start to appear in the road, the capsules split open and release the oil, which in turn softens the asphalt and helps it bind together again.
The system, which Highways England says has the potential to reduce the cost of repairs by £260m a year, will now be tested on sections of road as maintenance work is carried out.
In another development, Highways England says drones could also be used to report back on incidents on its network, in a bid to improve response times.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “Because people’s journeys are important to us we are setting out our high level aspirations which will help ensure the network continues to drive economic growth, jobs and prosperity, and keeps traffic moving today, and into the future.”
Chris Grayling, transport secretary, added: “This Government is making people’s journeys better, faster and safer to give people better access to jobs, schools and their community.
“We are planning to spend more than ever before to upgrade England’s motorways and major A roads from 2020 through to 2025.”
The DfT has also launched a consultation into the Highways England report, which will run until 7 February 2018.
The results of the consultation will be used to help develop the next Road Investment Strategy, which the Government is expected to publish in 2019.