The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has announced the five shortlisted candidates in a competition to design roads fit for driverless cars, with the contenders including smart traffic lights, flexible use of kerbsides, segregated driverless zones, and navigation systems learning through artificial intelligence (AI).
Launched in January by the NIC in partnership with Highways England (HE) and Innovate UK, the ‘Roads for the Future’ competition sought ideas for preparing the UK’s road network for the growth of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
The Commission received 81 entries and the five shortlisted teams will now each receive up to £30,000 (US$40,200) and will have three months to develop their ideas further, each working with a range of partner organizations to fully develop their idea.
An overall winner will be announced in the autumn and will receive a further £50,000 (US$67,000) in project funding. Separately, four other commended entries are being put in contact with leading figures across government and industry to test their ideas.
The five projects going through to the competition’s final round are:
• AECOM – Examining how smart signals could advise drivers of the speed they should drive at, so they arrive at the next set of traffic lights just as they turn green, helping to cut congestion and ending polluting ‘stop-go’ driving. The concept will be tested using a simulation model of the A59 in York (above);
• Arup – Looking at how kerbsides with fixed features, such as double yellow lines, parking bays and bus stops, could become more flexible, their use changing according to the time of day and levels of demand to meet the most pressing needs. The team will select a typical high street in London to test its FlexKerbs model (above);
• City Science – Based in Exeter, this entry examines how sections of existing roads could be dedicated to driverless cars, making it easier to manage any risk and integrate CAVs into the existing transport network (above);
• Leeds City Council – Examining how the data generated from digitally connected cars could be used to improve traffic light systems, allowing highway authorities to better manage traffic on their roads and reduce tailbacks. The team will use models of roads across Leeds to test this idea (above).
• Immense – Addressing how the latest AI could be used to help satellite navigation systems to ‘learn’ better routes to improve the directions given, so that both driven and driverless cars could change course to avoid congestion. Working with Oxfordshire County Council, the concept will be tested using simulations of four busy local roads in the county (top image);
“We can see for ourselves the progress in developing cars for the future, with trials of driverless cars taking place across the country; we now need to make sure the technology on our roads keeps up,” noted the NIC’s chairman, Sir John Armitt.
“The creativity and ingenuity of all the entries we received was very impressive, with many making the most of our existing network to prepare for these latest innovations. These five entries clearly stood out and I look forward to seeing how their ideas develop further over the coming months.”