Smart traffic lights and hi-tech public transport could become an everyday part of people’s journeys, according to ideas put forward by the joint winners of the national Roads for the Future competition.
City Science and Leeds City Council were chosen as the winners, from a shortlist of five companies announced in May. The competition, launched in January by the National Infrastructure Commission, with Highways England and Innovate UK, attracted 81 entries from across the UK.
The jury assessed the shortlisted applicants against the following criteria:
- Justification / evidence of benefits of idea
- Justification / evidence of feasibility of idea
- Focus on outcomes and next steps
- Quality and clarity of presentation to jury
Also on the shortlist was Aecom, who examined how smart signals from traffic lights could cut congestion; Arup, who provided the idea of flexible-use kerbs, and Immense, who studied how AI could improve Sat Nav.
After shortlisting, the selected projects entered a testing stage for their technologies.
Exeter-based City Science’s proposal examines how sections of road in urban areas could initially be dedicated to driverless vehicles, as a key step in kick-starting their take-up and integrating them safely into the existing transport network. City Science’s entry was offered as detailed research, rather than an in-situ test. It is hoped the prize money will help make the project a reality.
Leeds City Council’s entry analyses how the data generated from digitally connected cars could be used to improve traffic light sequencing, allowing highway authorities to better manage traffic on their roads and reduce tailbacks. In the preliminary trials, testing of radar and video sensor technology took place at two sites in Leeds. The prize funding will be used to scale up to full junction trials.
Both winners will receive £25,000 from a dedicated £50,000 prize fund.
Offering his congratulations to the 2 teams, chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission Sir John Armitt said he was impressed by the quality of the competition entries, and their proposals for how our road network can be made ready for driverless cars. Armitt said: “The vehicles of tomorrow will be very different to those we see around us today. We need to make sure our roads are ready for this revolution.
“With such a strong shortlist narrowing down the entries was no easy task, but the ideas put forward by City Science and Leeds set them apart. I’ve been really pleased by the enthusiasm for our competition, and I hope it leads to ever-greater interest not just in the technology in the vehicles, but also in the roads they will travel on.”
Laurence Oakes-Ash, chief executive of City Science, said: “Over the past 3 months, this project has given us the opportunity to explore the enormous potential of CAVs and set out a tangible vision to deliver their benefits on the UK’s roads.
“It is essential that we get the roll-out of connected and autonomous vehicles right, using them in ways that can integrate with mass transit, promote healthy cities and create successful communities.”
Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Cllr Richard Lewis, added: “It’s a fantastic achievement for Leeds City Council to be recognised nationally for our work on transport innovation. We want Leeds to be a smart city and at the forefront of developing technologies to help transform our transport network to improve people’s everyday lives.
“While digitally connected and autonomous vehicles are still a long way down the road, they have the potential to offer massive benefits in major cities like Leeds. We look forward to continuing our work with all our partners and stakeholders to turn this innovation into reality.”
Developing roads for the future
The Roads for the Future competition sought ideas for how the UK’s road network could be adapted to maximise the potential benefits these new vehicles could bring.
It is thought that these benefits could include creating new travel opportunities, freeing up time focused on driving, and helping to improve safety. Other benefits could include increasing road capacity, enabling higher speed limits and shorter journey times, encouraging vehicle sharing, and releasing street space currently used for parking.
The competition’s result follows publication of the UK’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, which examined preparing the country’s roads for both electric and driverless cars.
Among its recommendations were that the Government should develop a research framework for connected and autonomous vehicles, particularly focusing on the changes that will be required to the way that roads are planned, designed and operated to maximise the benefits that they could bring.