Government predicts the future: self-charging cars and incident-reporting drones
The UK government’s roads division has released a report outlining its vision for the future of motorways that will improve safety and efficiency – and it bears more than a passing resemblance to that of a sci-fi movie.
Highways England’s Strategic Road Network Initial Report unveils bold visions over the next three decades – with self-charging cars, drones that can send live incident reports and information displayed direct to the driver’s dashboard three of the most progressive plans.
Should the technology be fully implemented the safety and security of any road using it would likely be increased, owing to more predictable road surfaces and up-to-date information. It also raises the possibility that autonomous vehicles fitted with increasingly sophisticated sensory technology could also use the data to make journeys safer.
The multi-document Highways England report was created as part of the UK government’s plans to use state-of-the-art technologies to patrol the roads and improve safety and efficiency on the roads and will be used to inform the government’s next road investment strategy that begins in 2020. The strategy is the initial step in a long-term programme to improve England’s motorways and major roads, funded by £15.2bn of public money.
The need for a review of the future of the UK’s roads was long overdue, said the Highways England chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan, who argued that organic development was no longer good enough, and had to give way to a long-term view. “Now is the time for us to look to the future and consider what it might mean,” affirmed O’Sullivan. “We are delivering a record £15 billion of government investment to give people safe, efficient and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow.”
The technology that would underpin such data-heavy processes is most likely to be provided by the installation of 5G networks, which can handle much more data connect more devices and increase network reliability – a particularly important factor considering the essential road network that it will be protecting.
That technology would, says Highways England, also present an opportunity for state-of-the-art autonomous vehicles to join drones in reporting problems with the road’s service or traffic to inform fellow road users to improve safety and cut congestion. In related news, Samsung and KDDI last month successfully tested a 5G network on a train that at its peak transmitted download speeds of 1.7Gbps.
The technology outlined in last week’s Highways England report that enables vehicles to charge themselves, thus removing the need to have to stop at service stations, was originally looked at by the government agency in 2015 when it carried out trials to speed up its development.