Government Plans for Autonomous Vehicles Threatened by Poor Road Markings

20 April 2022

The Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) has today welcomed the Department for Transport (DfT) announcement to amend the Highway Code to “ensure the first self-driving vehicles are introduced safely on UK roads”. However, it warns that Government’s desire for the UK to become a world-leader in the use of autonomous vehicles may be thwarted as a result of poor infrastructure.

In the short to medium term well-maintained, high quality road markings are essential for the successful operation of semi/fully autonomous vehicles. If Government fails to invest in upgrading and maintaining road markings on the strategic road network and local authority A roads, highly capable vehicles will fail to operate successfully.

Stu McInroy, RSMA Chief Executive, said “The RSMA fully supports the Government’s ambition to be a world-leader in autonomous vehicles, however, it must ensure that the UK’s infrastructure is able to support this aim. The Government, in announcing regulatory changes to allow the use of certain technologies while autonomous vehicles are operating, appears to be focussing on everything except the most critical element of the drive towards the operation of semi/fully autonomous vehicles - road markings.

“For semi/fully autonomous vehicles to operate without input from the driver, the vehicle must be able to read the road; this cannot be done if the road markings are not maintained to an appropriate standard. Road markings are the rails of the road and are essential if semi/fully autonomous vehicles are to operate successfully; the current UK infrastructure threatens to undermine and potentially prevent their successful roll-out.

“If Government is serious about being a world-leader in autonomy, it must provide ring-fenced funding for road marking infrastructure. If such actions are not undertaken, this Government’s ambitions for autonomous vehicles will remain just that – an ambition.”

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