UK highways will go ‘naked’ by 2027 as infrastructure is stripped back


Zenzic the organisation dedicated to accelerating the self-driving revolution in the UK by uniting industry, government and academia, has revealed that emerging CAM (connected and automated mobility) technologies will eliminate the need for road signage, with UK drivers seeing ‘naked highways’ by 2027. 

Zenzic’s UK Connected and Automated Mobility Roadmap to 2030 reports that from as early as next year, new planning guidance and blueprints for CAM-ready cities, towns, highways and rural roads will look to accommodate CAM services for efficient operations. This will see new highway schemes move away from high cost (£10 million per km of smart motorway) assets in favour of digital infrastructure. 

In addition, improved vehicle connectivity will eliminate the need for new road signage. The physical evolution and decommissioning of signs and signals expected from 2027 will be the first visible indication that new road infrastructure has been deployed, followed by the widespread adoption of in-car signalling (using in-car technology to digitally display speed limits, highway exits, and traffic updates for example) in 2028. 

The transition, development and widespread adoption of digital road infrastructure will be informed by new standards, following agreed models for the digitisation of sign assets, as well as the specification of new safety services. In the next ten years (2029), this will include identifying common approaches to safety and design standards and in the next five years (2024) describe the mapping requirements for digital road infrastructure. 

Having the infrastructure in place to facilitate the development and testing of self-driving technologies and services will be key to unlocking insights that inform these standards and regulations, service design, and technology requirements. 

In order to develop and bring to life the infrastructure that will enable “naked highways”,  mature testing procedures and standards need to be in place. Initiatives such as the highly automated validation capabilities, at sites which are part of Testbed UK, will need to begin by 2025 in order for the wider CAM industry and government to agree on the test and validation methods and standards for safety. 

Daniel Ruiz, CEO at Zenzic said: “We are in a period of dramatic social and economic change. Transport is fundamental to the change and will soon be transformed by the new technologies associated with connectivity and automation, including digital infrastructure that will change the face of the UK’s highways. 

“The “naked highway” concept aims to bring economic benefits in terms of local and national efficiencies, as well as tangible benefits to public mobility including improved safety and better routing through centralised communication with drivers.” 

Roberto Ponticelli, Senior Consultant for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles at HORIBA MIRA said: “In order to achieve the concept of a ‘naked highway’ the industry will need to move from component-based testing towards system-based testing; a paradigm shift affecting every level of the value chain in the road transport industry. 

“A collaborative, integrated and coordinated approach to system design, testing, verification and validation that is orchestrated around scenarios meaningful to road users, mobility and infrastructure providers, local authorities, certification bodies and insurers, is at the core of this new paradigm. It will enable us to realise the promises of these new technologies and successfully implement the ‘naked highways’ concept, with all its benefits on traffic management and optimisation, cost of infrastructure, and the associated societal benefits.”

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