Preparing for driverless cars: contest seeks ideas for UK road network


The UK’s National Infrastructure Commission today issued an appeal to Britain’s best minds to submit ideas for how to develop the country’s road network ahead of the introduction of driverless cars.

Commission chairman Lord Adonis confirmed plans set out by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in his Budget speech for a new ‘Roads for the Future’ competition.

The contest, to be launched in the New Year with Highways England and Innovate UK, will seek ways to apply the latest technology to prepare motorways and other main roads for the arrival of connected and autonomous vehicles.

“There was a gap of some six decades between the first motor car appearing on our roads and the opening of the first motorway – we cannot afford to repeat that mistake and must ensure our roads keep up with the changes in technology,” said Lord Adonis.

“Once the preserve of sci-fi, the driverless car is now tantalisingly close and as companies spend billions developing these new vehicles, we need to turn our attention to the roads they appear on.  But this isn’t just about building new – this is also about adapting our existing network.

“Our ‘Roads for the Future’ competition offers a challenge to the country’s brightest and best, to develop their ideas for how our roads adapt to this digital age, and help ensure that when these new cars become available people can use them easily and with confidence to get from A to B.”

Competition entrants will be asked to consider issues such as road design, traffic management and how road rules may need to be adapted for driverless cars.

An expert panel drawn from Government and industry will assess the entries, with funding available for the winners.

Today’s Budget also confirmed the government’s aspiration, widely trailed earlier this week, to see fully self-driving cars operating on UK roads without a human safety operator by 2021.