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The government has awarded projects run by Exeter-based City Science and Leeds City Council £25,000 each from a dedicated £50,000 prize fund to explore how the UK’s roads can be made ready for connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs).
The contest, which attracted 81 entries from around the country, was run by the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), and was launched back in January 2018 with support from Highways England and Innovate UK, seeking input on how the national road network can be adapted to maximise the potential offered by CAV technology, should it go mainstream.
City Science’s winning entry will examine how sections of road in urban areas might initially be dedicated to driverless vehicles as a step in kick-starting take-up and, perhaps more importantly, integrating them into the existing transport network.
Leeds City Council, meanwhile, will examine how data generated from CAVs might be used to improve traffic light phasing, letting highway authorities manage traffic and reduce congestion.
“The vehicles of tomorrow will be very different to those we see around us today,” said NIC chair John Armitt. “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.”
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NIC commissioner Bridget Rosewell, who also chaired the judging panel, added: “This is just the beginning of getting our road system ready for the cars of the future and these winning ideas are a great starting point for a wider debate that looks beyond the vehicle itself and towards the roads they will travel on.
“I therefore hope the competition will encourage further innovations that consider both how these vehicles will be driverless, and how they could be connected using the latest digital technology.”
City Science specialises in data-driven decision making in both the transport and energy sectors, looking at transport analytics, modelling, planning and sustainability, and energy efficiency intelligence, storage and strategy.
Chief executive Laurence Oakes-Ash said: “Over the past three 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 rollout of CAVs right, using them in ways that can integrate with mass transit, promote healthy cities and create successful communities.
Smart signalling technology
Leeds City Council, meanwhile, first proposed a trial of smart signalling technology earlier in 2018, when it announced plans to introduce the split cycle offset optimisation technique (Scoot) system on the A65, a major route into the city from the northwest.
Scoot, which is already being used by Transport for London (TfL) with positive results, is designed to maximise co-ordination between each consecutive set of lights by responding to variations in traffic flow with the ultimate aim of reducing the number of times vehicles need to stop along their route. The system can also be set up to prioritise bus and pedestrian traffic.
“It’s a fantastic achievement for Leeds City Council to be recognised nationally for our work on transport innovation,” said Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis. “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.”