Cars that drive themselves may seem like a long way down the road. But the government is already preparing for the journey into the future. It is encouraging ideas for new infrastructure such as the smart pavement that take advantage of the so-called smart car.
One innovation that has caught the attention of experts is a new type of road. This employs embedded LED lighting technology to indicate a change of use.
Called FlexKerb, it is to be trialled in London. By using colour coding it can adapt according to traffic demands at different times of day.
Its creators say it could change from a cycle lane to a parking and charging bay for driverless vehicles depending on real-time traffic conditions and local infrastructure needs.
With more than 65 million people trying to get around and nearly 38 million cars on the road, Britain appears to be becoming increasingly congested.
Now the latest annual study of traffic levels around the world reveals the news few drivers will want to hear: Britain’s roads are grinding to a halt.
Motorists spend an average of 31 hours a year – more than a day – stuck in traffic. It is estimated that the delays cost drivers an average of £1168 in extra fuel and lost time. In London, where levels of congestion are higher, that figure rises to £2430 per driver. That’s equivalent to £9.5 billion for the capital.
Things are now so bad that during rush hour in some cities, it would be as quick to walk. Some average speeds are slower than a horse and carriage.
In the time it takes to read this sentence, a local authority would have repaired yet another pothole in Britain’s roads. But the bad news is the pothole plague is spreading faster than they can be patched up, and budget cuts mean most local authorities only have half the money they need to tackle the country’s pitted roads.
That’s the bleak picture painted by a comprehensive survey of local authority highways departments in England and Wales. The survey, carried out by the Asphalt Industry Alliance for the past 21 years, highlights the challenging driving conditions faced by car owners. And it tells drivers what they probably already knew: there isn’t enough money in the bank to fix our broken roads.
Driving can be challenging at the best of times. From trying traffic conditions to confusing road layouts, pedestrians to be mindful of and blind bends hiding danger, there’s a lot to take in. So we could all do without having to worry about potholes the size of Lake Windermere, blocked drains and faulty street lights.
Unfortunately, such problems are now a permanent fixture of driving today. And authorities can’t spend all day, every day scouring their road network for faults. But everyone that uses the roads can do their bit to help make them better – by reporting problems with potholes, drains, street lighting and more.