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Road industry urged to prepare for autonomous vehicles

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Transport bosses have called on the road industry to prepare for a roll out of autonomous and electric vehicle infrastructure.

Delivering the opening address at Highways UK, National Infrastructure Commission chair Sir John Armitt, and Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan called on the industry to consider the changing needs of the UK ‘s roads, namely the increase in autonomous and electric vehicles.

Armitt said that the UK’s roads are undergoing a “revolution” akin to that of when cars first arrived in the 1890s, and that industry needed to drive change.

“It is now 123 years since the first car journey in the UK in June 1895, by 1930 the number of cars reached one-million. We are facing no less of a revolution on our roads today,” Armitt said. “The number of driving tests taken this year has fallen, and people are choosing alternatives such as cycling, public transport and private services such as Uber.

“Those who do choose to drive are increasingly turning their backs on petrol and diesel. Sales of electric hybrids and electric plug-ins are up a fifth in the last year. Research is also continuing to bring connected and autonomous vehicles onto Britain’s roads.”

“We cannot sit back and hope that these developments will simply fall into place and into alignment with our road network as it currently operates.”

He added: “Our job as policy makers, transport planners, economists or engineers must be to ensure that the infrastructure we have adapts to meet these changing demands and ensure our roads are designed for the future.”

O’Sullivan said that Highways England was already incorporating the technology for autonomous vehicles into its Road Infrastructure Strategy (RIS) updates ahead of next year’s Smart Motorway Alliance.

“Our smart motorways will form the basis of the country’s digital transport spine. The cabling we have put in for smart motorways, changes to our control room IT and how operate it will prepare our network for connected autonomous vehicles,” he said.

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