Self-driving cars without a human behind the wheel will be allowed on UK roads from 2021, but are they a solution to our pothole problem?
Despite the 2017 Autumn Budget’s self-driving car announcement, there will be a few bumps in the road yet for this amibtious projection for the UK’s car industry.
Recent reports suggest that our entire road network may need to be upgraded to make way for advancements in driverless vehicles.
Even if the driverless cars could detect potholes using GPS, inertia measurement, radar or cameras – which may not be possible in all weather conditions – moving to avoiding them rather than slowing down could be treacherous.
Road maintenance funding
The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) has estimated road maintenance funding must rise by £1.5 billion per year to get the UK’s highways up to a maintainable standard. And even then, clearing the backlog would take a decade.
The government has announced a £22.9 million investment in council-led research and trials of new technologies to modernise the road network and find new ways of preventing potholes
Suggestions for how the pothole problem could be fixed range from new roads built using recycled plastic to a road heating system to prevent surfaces freezing.
But what if driverless cars could help to fix our pothole-riddled roads and pave the way to their future?
Can lasers fix potholes?!
One of the projects Oxford county council’s head of innovation Llewelyn Morgan and the wider council are working on involves how the pulsed laser light and a sensor fitted in experimental driverless cars could quickly and accurately identify where tarmac is breaking up.
The idea is that this information could help highway maintenance teams to fix potholes and plan resurfacing work before further deterioration – a ‘prevention before cure’ approach.
What do you think of driverless cars as a solution to the UK’s pothole problem? What are your ideas for how councils can use new technology to fix potholes and future-proof Britain’s roads?