Highways England has announced that it will invest £150m on harnessing new technology, including trials of driverless car technology on motorways.
The money forms part of Highway England’s innovation strategy which sets out its ‘wide-ranging plan to ensure it is keeping pace with advances in technology’.
Highways England says the strategy will bring ‘benefits to road users up and down the country as well as unlocking economic growth’.
The strategy builds on the announcement in the chancellor’s Budget speech that driverless cars will be tested on motorways by the end of 2017.
The strategy includes ‘connected corridors’ or ‘wi-fi roads’, which would see cars and infrastructure wirelessly connected, with drivers receiving news of advanced road closures or congestion warnings.
The use of radar technology on motorways and in tunnels to improve the way breakdowns are detected will also be trialled.
Andrew Jones, roads minister, said: “Innovation is absolutely critical to our £15bn investment plan for roads. A more reliable road network is good news for motorists and good news for the economy.
“Quicker, safer roads will improve access to jobs and opportunities. Placing Britain at the forefront of innovation and research in this area will also create more jobs and investment.”
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, added: “We’re committed to using innovation to benefit the millions of journeys made on England’s Strategic Road Network today and in the future.
“We will work with our partners in the supply chain, technology specialists and the automotive industry to trial new technologies that will help make journeys on our roads safer, more reliable and better informed.
“This will involve supporting trials of better connected and autonomous vehicles on our motorways by the end of next year, testing radar technology to better detect breakdowns, and trialling fuel price signs on the M5 between Bristol and Exeter.”
Other areas of research and development in the strategy include:
- Improving the signalling of junctions on motorways to increase traffic flows.
- The use of sensors that could provide better information about the condition of roads, bridges and tunnels on the network.
- The creation of a ‘Test and Innovation Centre’ to pioneer new research.
- The use of ‘expressways’ on A-roads to encourage more free-flowing traffic.
Photo: Highways England via Flickr. Use under Creative Commons.