Potholes could ‘prove dangerous’ for autonomous vehicles

12.00 | 11 April 2017 | | 3 comments

A new report has concluded that the UK’s road network will need to be maintained to a higher standard should autonomous vehicles become the norm.

The report, commissioned by the RAC Foundation and published on 7 April, explores the readiness of the road network for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs). It concludes that potholes could prove dangerous on roads which carry a lot of self-driving vehicles, particularly those with a higher speed limit.

In his foreword for the report, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said this conclusion ‘sits awkwardly’ with the current state of the UK’s roads.

Conducted by consultancy group CAS, the report also highlights the importance of maintaining road markings and signs to ensure that driverless vehicles are able to accurately ‘sense’ the road environment.

The report also considers the possibility of segregated infrastructure, including the construction of additional underpasses and bridges to separate different kinds of road users.

However, it concludes that in the UK the cost of construction and the limited availability of land for separated infrastructure would ‘almost certainly bring a halt to any schemes dependent on fully segregated infrastructure’.

Steve Gooding said: “This report focuses on the road infrastructure. One conclusion is unsurprising – that it is early days and, thus far, impossible to predict accurately how the roll-out of automation will happen.

“Perhaps less obvious, though, is the conclusion that autonomy could require enhanced standards of road maintenance, to ensure that driverless vehicles are able to ‘sense’ the road environment accurately – the delineation of the carriageway, lane markings, traffic signs and signals etc.

“This conclusion sits awkwardly with the current state of our roads, with the government’s own estimates for the maintenance backlog running into many billions.

“One thing is for certain – whatever trajectory emerges for the driverless car, we won’t be travelling very far unless we have an adequately maintained network to drive on.”

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    Today 21st April 2017 Volkswagon have publicly stated some concerns over autonomous vehicles being used in anything other than good daylight conditions. So that seems another deep concern over their usage.

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    Do we therefore presume that it will need the repair of all roads at a cost of some £13 billion before we even contemplate these autonomous vehicles on our roads? Does that cost also include single carriageways that have no central line as they are not considered wide enough?

    Bob Craven Lancs
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    Many roads in this country have no white lines and I’d expect the makers of autonomous cars to take this into account. Such cars should also be able to react to the road conditions including surface quality and drive suitably. Whilst I can see the need for roads to have more money spent on hygiene factors now, I really don’t see the linkages to the cars of the future.

    pete, liverpool
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