Smart Transport

Self-driving research project gets £1m to help prepare England's motorways for the future

Loughborough University and Highways England have launched a £1 million research project to understand the challenges connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) may face on England's motorways. 

The project, named CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness), will look at operations at roadworks, merging and diverging sections (across lanes and at junctions) and lane markings to help realise the UK Government target of having self-driving vehicles on UK roads by 2021.

Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Mohammed Quddus, the principal investigator on the project, and also of ABCE, said: “To date there is significant investment and advancement in Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.

“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."

Real-world data from different lane configurations will be collected and fed into 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).

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.

John Mathewson, Senior ITS Advisor, of Highways England, said: “Our fund is all about stimulating innovation and supporting research and trials to ensure the UK remains ready to adopt cutting edge technology.

“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.”

The project is being carried out in partnership with construction company, Galliford Try. 

Jon de Souza, of Galliford Try, added: “The recommendations from CAVIAR will support contractors such as Galliford Try to improve their offer as well as supporting highways operators to make better long-term capital and operational investment decisions.”

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