Highways England begins £1m project to assess motorways for CAVs, with Loughborough University

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A new £1m (US$1.2m) project has begun that will see the UK’s Loughborough University team up with Highways England to ensure the country’s motorways can accommodate connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).

Researchers will look at operations at roadworks, merging and diverging sections (across lanes and at junctions) and lane markings to understand the challenges CAVs may face.

The project, named CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness), is being carried out in partnership with construction company, Galliford Try. CAVIAR was announced as a winner in Highways England’s innovation and air quality competition last year and awarded £1m from the government company’s innovation and modernisation designated fund.

Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Mohammed Quddus, the principal investigator on the project,  says: “To date there is significant investment and advancement in CAVs. It is, however, not known whether existing road infrastructure, which was designed for conventional vehicles, is ready for the safe and efficient operations of CAVs. CAVIAR directly addresses this challenge.

“Although CAVs are designed with existing infrastructure in mind, ensuring they are safe to operate on motorways will require evaluating how road layouts affects their operational boundaries such as their ability to sense lanes and make appropriate decisions.”

CAVIAR will evaluate whether CAVs can safely navigate through the existing configurations of construction zones. Real-world data from different lane configurations will be collected and fed into the simulation models to calibrate and examine how CAVs respond to dynamic lane changes.

 

Digital maps representing dynamic lane configurations will be transmitted to CAVs in advance for informed routing decisions. In terms of lane markings, the platform will be utilised to understand how environmental conditions affect a CAVs ability to detect lane markings, such as snow, and low lighting – for example at night.

For merging and diverging scenarios, inconsistencies in geometric configurations will be appraised to examine whether CAVs are able to merge safely from the local road network (low speed) to the motorway network (high speed).

“Our vision is to deliver a world-leading experimental and simulated platform for assessing motorway infrastructure readiness level for CAV operations underpinned by the sciences of AI, statistics, optimisation and verification to realise the UK government target of having self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021,” says Professor Quddus.

“Our fund is all about stimulating innovation and supporting research and trials to ensure the UK remains ready to adopt cutting edge technology,” says John Mathewson, senior ITS advisor for Highways England. “This research will build on our understanding and give us further insight into how connected and autonomous vehicles would operate on England’s motorways and major A roads and what challenges they may face.

“It is a great example of partnership working between academia and industry. The results could help us shape how we invest in future road design and maintenance.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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