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Pothole maintenance will be ‘integral’ once driverless cars hit the mainstream

Repairing potholes could become a major priority once driverless cars become commonplace, a study has found.

Autonomous vehicles are likely to require “enhanced standards of road maintenance”, according to the report commissioned by the RAC Foundation.

It warned that a pothole could be “extremely dangerous” on a road carrying a platoon of high-speed self-driving vehicles.

Road markings, signs and signals will also have to be maintained to “a much higher level” if driverless vehicles are to operate safely, the research by consultancy CAS said.

A recent study by the Ashphalt Industry Alliance found local authorities need more than £12bn of funding to bring the road network up to scratch.

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “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 than driving, they have almost zero tolerance for safety failings.

“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.”

In January the Department for Transport started fitting high-definition cameras to bin lorries as part of a trial designed to detect future potholes. 

The results of a recent annual study of UK public highways also found that one in six roads in England and Wales are in a detrimental condition, in dire need of repair and resemble ‘Swiss cheese’ after years of neglect.

Potholes are a significant enough problem that Ford has constructed a 1.2 mile long pothole filled test track in Belgium that it uses to test its new models in real world conditions.  

Meanwhile, members of the public were given the opportunity to test a driverless vehicle in the UK for the first time on Wednesday.

Around 100 people will travel in a prototype shuttle on a two-mile route near London’s O2 Arena over the next three weeks. 

Last week, the Government announced plans for the first phase of its £100m investment in testing infrastructure to develop autonomous driving technology.

A “cluster of excellence” will be created along the M40 corridor, using existing testing centres in Birmingham, Coventry, Oxford, Milton Keynes and London.

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