Highways England will spend £150 million on improving the UK's road network, including trialling radar and wireless data systems

UK roads will be used to trial new radar and wireless information technology, as well as being used to test and develop autonomous vehicles by 2017.

The new plan, unveiled by Highways England, will cost £150 million and plans to harness the latest and emerging technology to keep the UK’s roads running smoothly.

Under the scheme, radar technology will be trailed at the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey. The system would continually monitor traffic and notify control centres “within seconds” of a breakdown being detected.

Specially adapted vehicles will also be able to receive wireless travel updates on the motorway. A trial section of road on the A2/M2 between London and Kent will be used to trial the technology, which would send journey information – including any upcoming traffic jams or accidents – wirelessly to vehicles. The technology could also suggest that cars take an alternative route or change lanes.

Existing A-roads will also receive more modern junctions with more emergency refuge points and maintenance areas. The plan calls for these roads to be turned into ‘expressways’ which will “encourage more free-flowing traffic”.

The government will also look at ways of improving existing junctions, including using different traffic light patterns depending on the time of day, and using sensors to provide better information on the condition of roads, bridges and tunnels.

Highways England has also committed to creating a new Test and Innovation Centre, which will focus on pioneering new research.

Autonomous cars to test on UK roads

As part of the strategy, autonomous vehicles will be tested on UK roads by the end of next year – a move which was first announced in Chancellor George Osborne’s budget in March. Highways England says it will start to collect “real-world data on performance and potential impacts on capacity and operations” ahead of the tests.

Announcing the plan, road minister Andrew Jones said: “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.”

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan added: “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.”

UK insurance premiums to fall

The drive to improve Britain’s road network is all part of the plan to make the UK a global leader in autonomous vehicle development. The advent of mass-market autonomy in cars could reduce global insurance premiums by more than £14 billion by the end of the decade, according to new research from insurer Swiss Re and mapping firm Here.

The research reveals that by 2020, more than two-thirds of cars sold worldwide will come with some form of connected technology, whether that comes from technology embedded within the vehicle, or by connecting third-party devices like mobile phones. In addition, the vast majority of those vehicles will come with at least one form of Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which could include pedestrian and blind spot detection, automatic cruise control with steering guidance, and Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB).

Last month, it was revealed that more than half of new cars sold in 2015 featured some form of autonomous safety technology - with 1.5 million buyers choosing collision warning systems.

Research has also found that a growing number of car buyers are willing to change their brand loyalties depending on what connectivity or safety systems are offered – a move which could leave brands who don’t offer the latest in car technology lagging behind.

As part of its research, Swiss Re and Here concluded that one of the biggest opportunities for insurers in the age of connected vehicles is to offer usage-based insurance. Similar to the telematics ‘black boxes’ offered by some insurers today, these products would be able to pinpoint where the car is and how fast it is going, allowing insurers to price risks more accurately.

Read more: UK insurance industry to consult on autonomous cars

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Comments
5

14 April 2016
How about spending the money on fixing the atrocious pot holed surfaces. Our roads are a national disgrace, it don't understand why there isn't a national campaign, by the likes of the motoring press, AA, RAC, IAM, ROSPA and the like, to high light the appealing disrepair of our roads and shame those responsible. The tax payer isn't getting value for money, as they are wasting money resurfacing stretches of roads that didn't need doing, yet ingonoring others that desperately need repair.

The government and its various agencies harp on about road safety, yet drivers are put in a position, where they have dodge around the pot holes etc. The roads where I live in Oxfordshire are atrocious, (quite a lot are nolonger fit for purpose), so it really bugs me, when there is no money to fix them, but there's £150 million to spend on a connected road trial! I know £150 million won't go far, but that just on this project!

The U.K. Road network needs a thorough overhaul and the motorist road tax, needs to be spent on fixing all the roads. So come on Autocar and the rest of the motoring press, make this a priority and shame the Goverment and local governments, into doing something about it.

14 April 2016
By that logic - How about we stop spending all that money on medical research and use it to fund the treatments we have now!

I think this is actually a good use of public money and an unusually forward thinking idea for Government and it's agencies. If we want to see an improvement in our roads, even if we're just talking about the surfaces, we need to take a holistic view of the network and use data to drive (no pun intended) intelligent decisions about what to fix when - hopefully, as the article said, assisting the economy and perhaps more importantly making savings.

14 April 2016
MattDoc30 wrote:

By that logic - How about we stop spending all that money on medical research and use it to fund the treatments we have now!

I think this is actually a good use of public money and an unusually forward thinking idea for Government and it's agencies. If we want to see an improvement in our roads, even if we're just talking about the surfaces, we need to take a holistic view of the network and use data to drive (no pun intended) intelligent decisions about what to fix when - hopefully, as the article said, assisting the economy and perhaps more importantly making savings.

Forward thinking? Some elements maybe, but the stuff about traffic info is by no means new. There have been apps and some technology built into some cars for a few years now. I use Waze every day for example, and mostly manage to avoid traffic jams on my 100 mile commute.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

14 April 2016
Where I live, the roads are litterally falling apart and virtually nothing is done about it, just massive house building, putting even more stress on the infrastructure. MattDoc30, you are a perfect example of how idiots in charge think, just like HS2, billions spent for no real benefit to the majority who pay the tax money these idiots waste. Who benefits ? Big business that's who. Spend some money on the future tech, but spend the £50 billion plus that motorist pay in taxes, on a fit for purpose transport network, NOW.

Have you ever driven in Holland, Germany, France or Spain, if you have, you'll understand how appalling the UK roads are. Even brand new road surfaces are bumpy and uneven !!! It's like the British road builders have no idea how to lay a smooth road surface and when they do, within a very short time, some utility company will come along and dig it all up and ruin it.

Quality control, quality roads, separate cycle paths, a rail network that is reliable for all, not expensive stupid ideas that will cost ridiculous amounts of money and only benefit the few. All the do at the moment, is waste a lot of OUR money.

14 April 2016
"Specially adapted vehicles will also be able to receive wireless travel updates on the motorway. A trial section of road on the A2/M2 between London and Kent will be used to trial the technology, which would send journey information – including any upcoming traffic jams or accidents – wirelessly to vehicles. The technology could also suggest that cars take an alternative route or change lanes."

Waze already does all of the above, apart from the lane changes, with technology that most people already have and use - GPS and wireless internet.


"Work hard and be nice to people"

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