New investment in road networks to support CAVs

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An element of the CAV adoption that receives less press than the vehicles themselves is adaptations to road networks to enable their operation. However, a £1m (US$1.3m) project has recently launched in the UK, consisting of a joint venture between Highways England and Loughborough University, to ensure the country’s motorway network can accommodate CAVs.

The project, named CAVIAR (Connected and Autonomous Vehicles: Infrastructure Appraisal Readiness), is being carried out in partnership with construction company Galliford Try. CAVIAR was announced as a winner in Highways England’s innovation and air quality competition in 2019 and awarded £1m from the government funds.

Professor of intelligent transport systems Mohammed Quddus, the principal investigator on the project, said, “To date there is significant investment and advancement in connected and autonomous vehicles. It is, however, not known whether existing road infrastructure, which was designed for conventional vehicles, is ready for the safe and efficient operations of CAVs. CAVIAR directly addresses this challenge.

“Although CAVs are designed with existing infrastructure in mind, ensuring they are safe to operate on motorways will require evaluating how road layouts affects their operational boundaries such as their ability to sense lanes and make appropriate decisions.”

The project initiators note that the ability of CAVs to operate fully autonomously may not be entirely dependent on vehicle technology due to the inherent complexity of roadway infrastructure. In addition, weather conditions may limit the ability of onboard sensors to detect road markings, configurations, traffic and road conditions. With these and other factors in mind, researchers will look at operations at roadworks, merging and diverging sections (across lanes and at junctions) and lane markings to understand the challenges CAVs may face.

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