National Highways and 20 firms from its supply are working together to define and develop a portfolio of innovative projects for the roads sector.
The new Roads Research Alliance will lead a £14.5m programme over the next five years. Research already under way includes using robots and semi-automation to carry out roadside tasks and protect the safety of workers, maximising the use of waste materials in road construction and the potential introduction of low carbon self-healing concrete roads.
Working in partnership with the University of Cambridge and Costain, National Highways has been given £5.5m funding to support research in such areas as Digital Roads, sustainability, automation and carbon reduction.
Funding has been provided by both the UKRI Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), and the EU Marie Sklodowska Curie Action (MSCA) co-fund programme for the work.
National Highways chief executive, Nick Harris, said: “We were already committed to delivering the research project and had funding in place but, rather than simply go forward alone, we wanted to work collaboratively with our supply chain and deliver a more joined-up approach to better address the challenges our sector faces.
“Together we can develop ideas that will increase safety on our network as well as improving how we design, maintain, operate and build roads. This is the first time National Highways has formed an alliance like this to deliver research and we are looking forward to seeing the exciting results.”
But education is key in terms of adopting Automated Vehicles for transporting goods, says Tara Adringa, Executive Director of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE).
“AV technology offers great potential to make our roads safer, to improve transportation equity and to provide more transportation options to more people,” she explains.
“But we won’t realise that potential unless consumers understand the technology and know how to use it safely. These results show that we need to double down on our efforts to help consumers understand the technology, and we need to give the public clear, understandable language to use to describe these new features.”