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Road repairs essential for deployment of autonomous cars

Ensuring zero tolerance for accidents on autonomous cars will require UK roads to be perfect.

Autonomous Volvo

The report for the RAC Foundation says much will depend on the ability of autonomous vehicles to be able to ‘read the road’.

So says consultancy CAS in a new report that says the road repair bill will need to rise if autonomous cars are to avoid potholes and pitfalls.

In the report on Readiness of the road network for connected and autonomous vehicles for the RAC Foundation, CAS says that much will depend on the ability of autonomous vehicles to ‘read the road’ and make allowances for potholes, poor road markings and complicated signals and signs.

The report gives the example of the danger faced if any of the vehicles travelling in a fast-moving, close-formation platoon hits a pothole.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Driverless cars will make decisions based on their best assessment of their surroundings. Throw in variables like potholes, unclear and obscured signs and lines, and intermittent communication coverage from our currently patchy network and you could find that far from offering the swift, comfortable travel we seek, our new autonomous cars are condemned to crawling along in ‘proceed with caution’ mode.”

As well as tackling the backlog in road repairs, the report also says the associated communication and information systems for the road infrastructure must be up to standard and offer comprehensive coverage.

“While motorists might accept a degree of human error and its consequences when they themselves are at the wheel, the experience from public transport is that when people are being driven rather driving they have almost zero tolerance for safety failings,” added Gooding. “The record on our roads is a long way from that today, but just focusing on the safety of the vehicle – its design and its software – isn’t going to bridge the gap. Getting the road infrastructure right is integral to ensuring an all-round safe system.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 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. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.