Connected Future - Highways England

We’ve been working with Highways England on a trial that will transform how we drive. The vision for the future is ‘naked motorways’ with no gantries and road signs; instead all information will be delivered direct to the driver in their vehicle in real time, with the goal of making roads safer and journeys smoother.

Over the last few months, some specially equipped cars travelling in London and Kent have been part of a test bed for the UK’s Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Programme, itself part of a much wider European InterCor project that includes the Netherlands, Belgium and France.

Highways England have been working in partnership with Department for Transport, Kent County Council and Transport for London on this EU co-funded InterCor programme, with the ambition of developing interoperable technology, systems and processes that will be part of the future of road travel.

Test vehicles on a 20 mile stretch of one of the UK’s busiest routes (the A2 and A102 in London and the M2 and A229 in Kent) are using innovative technology that allows vehicles and roads to ‘talk’ to each other. In a step forward from the SatNavs we are already accustomed to, onboard technology links cars and roadside equipment wirelessly and sends and receives data that is used to affect speeds, routes and route management.

Information is relayed directly into the cars about road works, road conditions, road signs, speed limits and even the timing traffic lights take to turn green. This can then be used in the vehicle to vary speed and create a smooth, reliable, safe journey without hold ups. At the same time, data from the cars can help road authorities manage the road network and maintenance regimes to avoid delays and prevent accidents. We have helped set up and run the trial, taking it from concept to road, and in the process developing C-ITS (Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems) standards for the whole industry.

Connecting vehicles to each other and the road around can improve journeys, make them safer and give drivers reliable, real time personalised information. It could also help us manage traffic and respond to incidents.
Jo White Head of Intelligent Transport Systems Group, Highways England

Key facts

number of antenna sites beside the test section of A2/M2 to provide wireless communication
30 30
number of miles on Highways England roads (24 carriageway miles)
12 12
number of miles on TfL roads
08 08

TestFest cooperation

For Highways England we've been responsible for roadside infrastructure design, design of the backhaul communications between their core and sub-networks, radio propagation surveys, equipment specification and development, system technical assurance and project management. On behalf of the four UK partner organisations, we've been responsible for pilot operation planning and safety governance for the on-street testing and evaluation of the services, and the analysis of test results for the connected vehicles. We also supported the planning and running of the UK’s TestFest event, drawing interest and participation from across Europe with 33 participants from six countries testing their connected vehicles on UK roads and demonstrating interoperability.

Dual communication test

The trial has been testing two forms of communication to link with in-car systems – traditional cellular, and wireless via 30 sites where antenna have been erected alongside the road, designed to the latest ITS-G5 standard.

Early results are good, particularly in telling the driver what is happening on the road. The more complex interactions such as with traffic lights, and understanding the volume of data connected vehicles might bring, are providing invaluable learning for future planning and trials.