Are roads ready for driverless cars?

6 February 2019

The Government has announced today (6 February 2019) that a process is being developed to support the advanced trials of automated vehicles, which could be on UK roads by the end of this year.

This announcement supports the automotive and technology industries, but fails to recognise the importance of supporting infrastructure to ensure the transition to driverless cars is a success.

Road markings are vital in helping autonomous vehicles navigate safely. Many vehicles rely on sensors to read road markings, however the roads and lines themselves are in a poor state in some areas.

Stu McInroy, Chief Executive of the Road Safety Markings Association, says:

“My concern is that government probably hasn't as yet fully understood and embraced the importance of the supporting infrastructure that would be required to support driverless vehicles.

“Road markings in the UK tend to be refreshed on a six- to eight-year basis, and given the financial challenges faced by  local authorities across the country, that period is being extended. Of course, the result is that if lines aren't replenished, refurbished or replaced, they lose reflectivity. In some cases the lines can’t be seen by the human eye, let alone a sensor.”

Serious consideration must be given to increasing central and local government funding to ensure the transition towards autonomous vehicles will be successful in the UK. McInroy says:

“The government must support local authorities financially. Only when the highways network is properly funded and maintained can fully automated-vehicle technology be used to its full potential. Unless the supporting infrastructure performs to a high standard, most notably road markings, the UK will not cement its position as a world leader in automated-vehicle technology.”

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