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Highways England sets out details of ‘WiFi road’ for driverless vehicle trials

The strategy builds on the announcement by Chancellor George Osborne in the March 2016 Budget that driverless cars will be tested on motorways by the end of 2017.

Under the plans, a connected corridor or ‘WiFi road’ could see cars and infrastructure wirelessly connected, with drivers receiving news of advanced road closures or congestion warnings. The strategy also includes trialling radar technology on motorways and in tunnels to improve the way breakdowns are detected.

Roads Minister Andrew Jones said: “Innovation is absolutely critical to our £15bn investment plan for roads. 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.”

The strategy will see Highways England:

  • Trial radar technology on motorways and acoustic technology at the Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey to improve breakdown detection. The technology would continually monitor traffic and notify control centres within seconds of a stationary vehicle.
  • Join a trial that would see information sent wirelessly to specially adapted vehicles on the A2/M2 between London and Kent. The on-road technology would wirelessly transmit the latest journey information directly to vehicles which, depending on the circumstances, could suggest changing lanes or taking an alternative route.
  • Ensure that trials are being undertaken for autonomous vehicles on motorways by the end of next year, to start to collect real world data on performance and potential impacts on capacity and operations.
  • Look at improving the signalling of junctions on motorways to increase traffic flows. This would involve adapting timing of the signals at junctions depending on the time of day and use.
  • Investigate the use of sensors that could provide better information about the condition of roads, bridges and tunnels on the network. In the future this could allow for more targeted maintenance programmes and save money over the lifetime of the road surface or structure.
  • Exploring the creation of a Test and Innovation Centre to pioneer new research.
  • Develop the use of ‘expressways’ on A-roads to encourage more free-flowing traffic by having modernised junctions, provide emergency refuge and maintenance areas and use advanced technology to provide journey information.
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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.