Winning innovative ideas for ensuring UK roads are fit for driverless future revealed

Two forward-thinking ideas on how the country can best integrate driverless cars into today’s road network have been revealed as winners in a first of its kind competition.

The National Infrastructure Commission’s (NIC) Roads for the Future competition has selected entries which focus on how smart traffic lights and hi-tech public transport could become an everyday part of people’s journeys.

The winners – City Science and Leeds City Council – will each receive £25,000 from a dedicated £50,000 prize fund after beating off competition from the original 81 entrants. The judging panel’s chair believes the announcement is “just the beginning” with more innovators expected to be attracted to exploring the area.

Leeds City Council looked at how cars of the future may be able to talk to one another to improve traffic light sequencing and in turn allow highway authorities to better manage congestion and reduce tailbacks.

City Science, based in Exeter, focused their entry on how sections of roads in urban areas could initially be dedicated to driverless vehicles, as a key step in kick-starting their take-up.

Chairman of the NIC Sir John Armitt said: “The vehicles of tomorrow will be very different to those we see around us today. We need to make sure our roads are ready for this revolution. With such a strong shortlist narrowing down the entries was no easy task, but the ideas put forward by City Science and Leeds set them apart. I’ve been really pleased by the enthusiasm for our competition, and I hope it leads to ever-greater interest not just in the technology in the vehicles, but also in the roads they will travel on.”

Launched in January, in collaboration with Highways England and Innovate UK, the NIC invited ideas which explored a range of issues including how roads can be shared by driverless and driven vehicles and how existing infrastructure can be adapted to be fit-for-purpose for the changes that lie ahead.

In May, 81 entrants were whittled down to just five with AECOM, Arup and Immense Solutions making up the shortlist. The final five then had three months working with partner organisations to develop their ideas.

Commenting on the win, City Science chief executive Laurence Oakes-Ash said: “City Science is delighted to be joint winners of this fantastic competition. Over the past three months, this project has given us the opportunity to explore the enormous potential of CAVs and set out a tangible vision to deliver their benefits on the UK’s roads.”

Leeds City Council executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, Richard Lewis added: “It’s a fantastic achievement for Leeds City Council to be recognised nationally for our work on transport innovation. We want Leeds to be a smart city and at the forefront of developing technologies to help transform our transport network to improve people’s everyday lives.”

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