New road technology that could be coming to you in the near future

Road technology

While much of the focus for the way motoring is changing is on our cars, road technology will play an increasingly important part in our lives. Cars might be getting ever cleverer but the roads are beginning to catch up.

The safety-conscious Scandinavians are at the forefront of advances and here we explore two common sense bits of road technology. Bluetooth traffic monitoring may already be on a road near you, depending on where you live in the UK. And intelligent streets lights with a low power resting mode that become brighter when cars approach could be coming sooner than you think.

Why monitor Bluetooth?

Virtually every car owner has a mobile phone. And the vast majority of these will have their Bluetooth function switched on so they can be paired with the car or a headset. What if you could monitor all those Bluetooth signals? You could then track individual cars, enabling you to build up an accurate picture of traffic movements.

Where is Bluetooth monitoring happening?

The south coast city of Portsmouth is the first UK urban area to try Bluetooth tracking. Sensors mounted at the side of the road pick up Bluetooth signals and follow them. It enables journey times and traffic patterns to be measured on 12 cross-city routes. Elsewhere in the world this road technology is being trialled in Thailand’s Bangkok and the Swiss city of Zurich.

Road technology

Isn’t tracking people a bit scary?

For a start, it’s only the Bluetooth signal that’s being tracked; individual cars are just blips on a screen. And after London, Portsmouth is the UK’s most densely populated city so there are an awful lot of those blips! What’s more, there’s no way of identifying individual cars.

What are the benefits?

Journey times and traffic patterns in the city can be measured. This enables traffic planners to see the effect of roadworks. They can also tell if residential rat runs are being used excessively. The traffic planners can react to any problems like this by changing the phasing of traffic lights to benefit major routes and make residential roads less attractive to drivers.

In Denmark, where Bluetooth tracking was developed, they’re using historical data to see how current journey times might vary from the norm. This enables planners to react accordingly. They can even spot accident blackspots more quickly than waiting to analyse police accident reports.

Why auto dimming street lights?

Some councils in the UK are already switching to more energy-efficient LED street lights. But in Norway, they’ve gone one step further. A five-mile stretch of motorway near Hole features street lights that automatically dim when there are no cars on it. The quiet stretch of road, an hour away from the capital Oslo, has been fitted with 220 sensors to detect when a car, cyclist or walker approaches. Street lights are then powered up from 20 per cent to 100 per cent. When the road user has passed, the lights dim to 20 per cent brightness.

What are the benefits?

From a road safety perspective, auto dimming street lights mean roads are more likely to be lit when users need them. They will save councils money by using less electricity when they’re not needed. And they will save the planet by reducing the amount of energy used to light our streets. The lights are estimated to save 2100kWH per week. According to uSwitch.com, that’s roughly equivalent to a year’s usage by one or two people in a small home.

Why focus on street lighting?

Street lighting is one resource that costs local authorities millions every year. In an effort to save money in the face of budget cuts, councils up and down the country have been turning street lights off since the 2008/09 financial crisis. In 2014, the Labour party claimed 106 of the country’s 150 councils were either switching off or dimming street lights. The charity Living Streets found insufficient street lighting was a problem for more than a quarter of people.

11 comments on “New road technology that could be coming to you in the near future

  1. Duncan Neville-Smith January 29, 2018 7:55 am

    Isn’t this going to eventually lead to monitoring every car individually to the point where they will be able to big brother every single cars journey to include speed driving behaviour and many other things? They say that its impossible to do that because of the shear volume of traffic but in reality that would be easy for them to do so? So the minute you get in your car they will be able to detect where you are where you’ve been and everything about the way you’ve driven. Some people will be bound to say that if your not doing anything wrong then you’ll have nothing to worry about but in reality this will be a major invasion of your civil rights and part of an over policed society?

    • Hywel Rees March 7, 2018 9:52 am

      That already happens if your car is fitted with tracking systems used by insurance companies. I had a company car that they monitored driving style, speed, location, cornering velocity etc and this came up on a dashboard giving a performance rating. Any adverse issues highlighted (speeding, overly aggressive driving etc) led to possible loss of bonus!

      • jeff March 15, 2018 3:06 pm

        I refused to have a tracker on my vehicle as my company could not guarantee the data would be 100% secure. Who wants a nosey manager seeing where you went in the evenings and week ends?

  2. R D Sanders January 29, 2018 10:35 am

    The concept of intelligent street lighting makes a lot of sense and in less populated areas it may well save council money. However in major cities traffic/people movement on our streets happens 24hrs a day and the savings may be minimal. Living in Birmingham I have witnessed a number of council imposed schemes which have not been properly thought through and cost tax payers millions unnecessarily. If employed sensibly Intelligent Lighting is a good idea, but have our Councils got the intelligence to employ them sensibly?

    • Lee March 15, 2018 11:34 am

      Totally agree.
      From a rough calculation the total saving from those street lights in the above article would be approximately £800 per year.
      Surely the cost to tax payers could never be repayed by the time you have factored in installation and upkeep/maintenance .
      I do agree with the idea in principle but hope that cost to the tax payer can be balanced with the benefits!

    • jeff March 15, 2018 3:01 pm

      Unlikely a council would do anything but save themselves money and disregard what we think is valid. I’d rather see more police on the streets and roads catching drivers who cause accidents and steal our cars.

  3. Collin Clifton March 16, 2018 9:33 am

    What are ‘ residential rat runs’ ?

  4. vincent March 20, 2018 5:46 pm

    Anyone remember the tv series THE PRISONER? That is what we are becoming.

  5. Don F March 22, 2018 12:54 am

    What I don’t like about the ‘smart motorways’ is the fact that there is little escape if you breakdown when all lanes are ‘live’. Yes they have emergency laybys, but what happens if you are not by one or cant get to one due to the traffic, do you stop in a ‘live lane’?

  6. Don F March 22, 2018 1:07 am

    If this system cant identify individual vehicles then it is not ‘big brother’. It could be a great saving to dim the streetlights, but this would only be a benefit in rural area’s. The heavier volume of traffic will be in towns & cities, so the lights will have little chance to dim with the constant flow of traffic & pedestrians.

  7. pete March 22, 2018 1:52 pm

    well said Jeff agree with you entirely

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