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Illuminating the future of roads

Trials have been carried out by National Highways, which have seen the future of roads explored.

The research has focused on how intelligent street lighting can be used as part of the digital roads infrastructure.

Closed circuit television and wireless technology that enables vehicles to communicate could be neatly stored inside the lanterns of street lights alongside the National Highways network, enabling existing infrastructure to push out information on traffic updates, speed limits and diversions.

Bandwidth has restricted air wave transmissions in the past, but with the roll-out of 5G and the IoT (Internet of Things) infrastructures lighting could be equipped with devices such as wireless access points and cameras.

The ‘proof of concept’ trial was carried out over five months, on the M40 junction 15 Longbridge roundabout near Birmingham. The technology was successfully able to communicate data to office equipment and tablet computers.

The knowledge gained in the trial will be used to help shape National Highways’ strategy for managing the Connected and Autonomous (CAV) infrastructure.

National Highways’ Innovations Lead for the Midlands, Lisa Maric, said: “These are exciting times as we progress on our Digital Roads journey with the growth of digital technology and the move to electric, connected and autonomous vehicles that will fundamentally change how we use roads in the future.

“National Highways is committed to ensuring we are at the forefront of this digital revolution and are preparing the way for the greener and safer roads of tomorrow.

“Initial trials such as Illuminate will help us identify new innovations, technology and methods to meet our digital goals. We were pleased with how Illuminate performed as a proof of concept and the useful knowledge gained as we continue to plan for the roads of the future.”

National Highways worked with Kier Highways on the Illuminate trial. Kier Highways Project Manager, Carla Vicente, said: “Being able to install technology, such as CCTV, while we are replacing street lighting is a more efficient way of working and provides better value for customers. More importantly, it is a safer and less disruptive way of working, reducing the amount of road closures required.”

The trial has been funded through National Highways’ Innovation and Modernisation Fund which is helping to maximise the opportunities offered by developments such as automated vehicles while putting safety at the forefront of emerging technologies.

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