The UK road network is set to undergo significant changes as Highways England looks to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and improve breakdown detection through innovation.
Highways England have released their Innovation Strategy
, highlighting the different areas they will working on in order to reach these goals.
Their ‘Delivery Plan’ makes a commitment to deliver £150m of innovative projects between now and 2021. These funds will be used to support key priorities including trials of connected and autonomous vehicle technologies, provision for better information to customers and improved management of the road network and infrastructure.
Initial projects to be funded include:
• The first motorway to motorway traffic management scheme, to improve journeys for our customers.
• Testing tunnel detection systems in the Hindhead tunnel contributing to improved safety in these environments.
• Work with the Department for Transport (DfT) and the freight industry to deliver freight platooning, and trial a ‘connected corridor’ in the South East.
• A Collaborative Traffic Management programme on the M25.
• Fuel price signs on the M5, which will allow customers to make informed purchasing decisions during their journeys.
A number of specific activities will support the planned and future innovation projects, including:
• Exploring the creation of a Test and Innovation Centre, which would provide a safe (off road) environment to test and develop new highway technology solutions.
• Seeking to use smart motorways to test innovations and prepare them for connected vehicles, for example trialling radar technology to detect stationary vehicles in live lanes.
According to Highways England new radar technology will be trialed to help improve breakdown detection and traffic flow. The technology will monitor traffic non-stop, alerting control centres within seconds of a stationary vehicle.
Connected vehicles could also receive important updates, suggesting times to switch lanes or use an alternative route. The technology will be tested on the A2/M2 between London and Kent using specially adapted vehicles.
Autonomous, self-driving, vehicles will start trialling by the end of 2017 as well.
They are considering adding sensors to monitor the road, providing better information about the conditions of roads, bridges and tunnels, this could be especially beneficial to haulage companies
A new Test and Innovation Centre is being considered, as well as ‘expressways’ to encourage more free-flowing traffic.