08 November 2021

Preparing our highways for Connected and Automated Vehicles

Over the next 25 years, a growing number of UK vehicles will incorporate advanced features allowing the cars to drive themselves under certain conditions. Automotive manufacturers are investing heavily in Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology as they compete for a competitive advantage in the future market. This includes advanced camera and sensor systems that can accurately detect road conditions and software programmes that control driving behaviour. But the ability of CAVs to operate fully autonomously may not be entirely dependent on technology.  
Our current highways’ infrastructure design and operational features are designed for conventional vehicles and may not be ready for the safe and efficient operation of CAVs.
Weather conditions, too, may limit the ability of onboard sensors to detect road markings, configurations, traffic and road conditions.
As the public uses CAV (self-driving) vehicles, there will be greater demand for road networks to provide additional infrastructure and services to improve safety and reduce congestion. Changes will need to be implemented, and there will need to be a common vision for improved engagement between national road authorities (NRAs), service providers and OEMs.
A £1m project, launched in July 2020, has seen Loughborough University team up with National Highways (previously Highways England) to help ensure the country’s motorways can accommodate CAV vehicles. This involves researchers looking at operations in such areas as roadworks, lane markings and the design of junctions, using a range of sensors, including lidar, radars, cameras and GPS, to understand the challenges CAV vehicles may face.
The project, known as CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness) is being carried out in partnership with the construction company Galliford Try. Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Mohammed Quddus, Principal Investigator on the project, says: “Although CAVS are designed with existing infrastructure in mind, ensuring they are safe to operate on motorways requires evaluating how road layouts affect their operational boundaries, such as their ability to sense lanes and make appropriate decisions.”

To calibrate and examine how CAVS respond to dynamic lane changes, real-world data from different lane configurations is being collected and fed into an advanced simulation platform, using a range of technology underpinned by the sciences of AI, statistics, optimisation and verification.

Digital maps are transmitted in advance to CAVs for informed routing decisions, and the platform is utilised to understand how environmental conditions such as snow and low lighting affect their ability to detect lane markings. The platform also appraises merging and diverging scenarios to examine whether CAVs can merge safely from the local road network (low speed) to the motorway network (high speed).
TRL, a global centre for innovation in transport and mobility, has recently been appointed project management lead on a two-year programme to establish a CAV-ready framework to prepare highways for safe and smart CAV driving. The programme, known as DiREC (Digital Road for Evolving Connected and Automated Driving) is part of Europe’s CEDR Transnational Research Programme (TRP) and aims to provide a clear picture of the risks, opportunities, impacts, responsibilities and liabilities surrounding CAD, outlining a clear roadmap to address such issues, alongside the tools to measure the progress being made towards CAV-ready networks.
The future is certainly exciting regarding the development and use of CAVs. Still, it is apparent that a lot of work, research and development is required to prepare our road networks for the safe use of such vehicles, and there is an evident need for all relevant bodies to work together. CAVs may have given us a glimpse into the future, but their implementation on today’s UK roads seems a fairly distant reality. As they say, watch this space…
As TM specialists, our job is to stay abreast of change, new legislation and compliance requirements. To find out how TSM’s expertise can help with your traffic management project, whether high speed 12AB works or 12D streetworks, please either call us on 01564 700241 or email us at: enquiries@tsmltd.co.uk

Traffic Technology Today: TRL to lead program to establish CAV-ready framework for highways

ASCE: Preparing highways for connected and automated vehicles


Loughborough University: Preparing the UK’s motorways for self-driving vehicles