pothole road

Future cars could automatically detect and report potholes to keep Britain’s roads safe

Connected road vehicles could be used to look out for potholes and send their location to Highways England, the road operator has said.

In its Strategic Road Network Initial Report, it makes a number of suggestions around using technology to improve the safety and efficiency of Britain’s road networks.

This also includes using drones to fly overhead scouting the roads for incidents in order to improve response times.

The report from the government-owned company will be used to inform the UK’s next road investment strategy which is due to start in 2020.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: “We are delivering a record £15bn of government investment to give people safe, efficient and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow.

“Because people’s journeys are important to us we are setting out our high level aspirations which will help ensure the network continues to drive economic growth, jobs and prosperity, and keeps traffic moving today, and into the future.

“We encourage people to read our report and feed back through the Department for Transport’s (DfT) consultation, which is also launched today.”

The DfT’s consultation runs until February 7 2018.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are planning to spend more than ever before to upgrade England’s motorways and major A roads from 2020 through to 2025.”

A recent study found that pothole repair could become a major priority once driverless cars become commonplace. 

Potholes could become “extremely dangerous” on roads carrying platoons of high-speed self-driving vehicles it found.

Russell Goodenough, who works in Fujitsu’s transport sector, said: “These proposals to transform England’s motorways highlights that the transport industry is at the crossroads between the old and the new.

“We’re expecting continuous transformation in the sector, and seeing Highways England design new roads with connected vehicles in mind is confirming the speed at which the industry is innovating. Making smart motorways the new norm will help us determine how autonomous vehicles fit into our existing transport infrastructure.

“This, of course, will also help shape the public’s understanding of connected and driverless cars, which is paramount if we want to see these hit our roads. Fujitsu’s own research showed that as of today, 41 per cent of people would be uncomfortable being picked up by a driverless car, and less than two in ten would be happy to put their child in one alone.

“However, we can persuade the public by demonstrating the benefits smart motorways and connected cars have. For example, by incorporating fibre-optic cables in motorways, messages can be transmitted to dashboards to improve road efficiency.

“Connected vehicles can also be programmed to spot potholes and communicate with road operators, for instance. As such, it’s positive to see Highways England and private companies align their goals to educate the UK public on the technology, and how it can improve road safety.”

Ensuring vehicles can withstand the rigours of driving along poorly maintained roads is a major priority for automakers. Ford has even created its own pothole-filled test track that stretches for 1.2 miles in order to test its vehicles in real road conditions.

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