The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has launched a competition looking for ‘leading lights from across industry’ to help ensure the country’s roads are ready for driverless cars.
The competition jury will select the five best entries to go through to a second round, with each of these given up to £30,000 to develop their ideas further over a three-month period.
Sir John Armitt, who became chairman of the NIC last week, said the Roads for the Future competition presented an opportunity to shape how people travel ‘for generations to come’.
Launched with Highways England and Innovate UK, the competition will seek ideas for making the UK road network ready for connected and autonomous vehicles – including using the latest technology.
ighways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan
It will look for ideas as to how existing infrastructure can be adapted, how roads shared by driverless and driven vehicles can work, and how these changes can be introduced alongside charging networks for new electric cars.
It will also look for ideas that can work on different types of roads, whether a residential avenue, a high street or a motorway. Entries will be judged by an expert panel, brought together from across industry, academia, regional government and the public sector.
Sir John said, ‘We’re seeing a revolution on our roads, as more and more people move away from the traditional petrol and diesel car and towards new electric vehicles – the next step, driverless cars, will make an even bigger impact.
‘Our Roads for the Future competition offers the chance to be at the cutting edge of shaping how we travel for generations to come. That’s why we want to put people’s minds to this test.
‘Whether from industry or academia, we want to see them submit their ideas for developing a world-class roads network that can meet the challenge that this new technology presents.’
Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said, ‘The greater automation of vehicles has many potential benefits including better use of road capacity, improved mobility and safety.
‘We outlined in our recent Strategic Road Network Initial Report, the role technology and innovation will play in transforming the way we build and use our roads.’
Plans for a Roads for the Future competition were announced as part of the chancellor’s Budget statement in November.
Those wishing to enter have two months in which to submit their ideas, which should follow three broad themes:
- The design of roads and related infrastructure – how will existing roads need to be adapted to meet the needs of new driverless cars?
- Traffic management – how will key features such as traffic lights and other methods of traffic control need to adapt to meet the needs of different vehicle types?; and
- Road rules and regulations – how should current restrictions, for example speed limits, and parking and loading rules, be updated for this new environment?
The winning entry will be announced later this year.