Highways England has announced plans to trial autonomous vehicles on motorways as part of a £150 million investment in new transport technology.
Publishing its innovation strategy this month, the agency said that it aims to keep pace with advances in technology, bringing benefits to road users up and down the country as well as unlocking economic growth.
The plans include trials of driverless cars on motorways by the end of next year in order to start collecting “real world” data on performance and potential impacts on capacity and operations.
Another trial involves creating a connected corridor or ‘wi-fi road’ with cars and infrastructure wirelessly connected on the A2/M2 between London and Kent. The on-road technology would wirelessly transmit the latest journey information to connected vehicles which, depending on the circumstances, could suggest changing lanes or taking an alternative route.
Meanwhile, Highways England plans to trial radar technology on motorways and acoustic technology at the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey to improve breakdown detection. This technology would continually monitor traffic and notify control centres of a stationary vehicle within seconds.
The agency will also investigate the use of sensors that could provide better information about the condition of roads, bridges and tunnels on the UK’s road network, enabling more targeted maintenance programmes.
“We’re committed to using innovation to benefit the millions of journeys made on England’s Strategic Road Network today and in the future,” Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said in a statement. “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.”