A new report published by EuroRAP* and Euro NCAP* suggests that inadequate maintenance and differences in road markings and traffic signs are a “major obstacle to the effective use of technology in vehicles”.
The report, “Roads that cars can read”, says that by 2025 half of the cars on Europe’s roads will be capable of “reading” signs and markings, and suggests that vehicles, like drivers, will not function properly where road markings and signs are worn out, inconsistent or confusing.
It also says that this means putting an end to the different fonts, colours, sizes and shapes that are seen in "even the most basic, internationally standardised safety signs such as ‘stop’ and ‘give way’". The report also says this means standardising the width of white lines and the amount of light they reflect – and ensuring the edges of major roads are marked.
The report challenges the EU, governments and stakeholders to respond to the recommendations of the working party of cross-industry experts who have proposed adopting clear, common standards for road markings and traffic signs on major rural roads which many countries have adopted. It also calls for an independent survey of Europe’s major roads to assess the scale of action needed to meet these standards.
The report has been launched to coincide with the ‘Developing Safe, Efficient and Connected Mobility’ conference in Brussels which is focusing on advanced vehicle design. The conference will look at the “connected” car which can provide drivers with access to extensive information about congestion, accidents, road conditions, road works, weather changes and upcoming hazards. It will enable vehicles to communicate with each other and provide warnings, such as unsafe lane departure or immediate risk of collision.
Launching the report, John Dawson, chair of EuroRAP, said: “There needs to be a fundamental change in the discipline we apply to road infrastructure.
“Lane markings are now the ‘rails’ for self-steering vehicles. The safety standards of the rail and aviation industry need to be applied to major roads.”
Michiel van Ratingen, secretary general of Euro NCAP, added: “We set demanding standards for 5-star cars. We must now move towards 5-star roads where the quality of road markings and signs are assured to work with modern vehicles.”
In a joint statement of support, the FIA, European Road Federation and ACEA (the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association) have joined EuroRAP and Euro NCAP in calling for a step-up in road maintenance standards, saying: “Roads that are not regularly maintained cost many times more to repair and reconstruct. Roads that are not properly maintained, marked and signed result in avoidable death, bodily injury and damage. Roads that are unfit for purpose fail to provide the connectivity on which jobs, the economy and society depends.
“Assuring the quality of Europe’s roads must start with the network of greatest social and economic importance. It is unacceptable that this busy network on which so much travel and risk is concentrated should not meet basic standards.”
Footnote: Euro NCAP & EuroRAP
Euro NCAP organises crash tests on new vehicles and provides motoring consumers with an independent assessment of the safety performance of some of the most popular cars sold in Europe. Established in 1997 and backed by several European Governments, motoring, consumer and insurance organisations, Euro NCAP has become a catalyst for encouraging significant safety improvements to new car design.
The European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) aims to reduce death and serious injury through a programme of systematic testing of risk, identifying the major shortcomings that can be addressed by practical road improvement measures. It forges partnerships between those responsible for a safe road system – civil society, motoring organisations, vehicle manufacturers and road authorities.