Shortlisted final five entries revealed for NIC's future roads competition

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has revealed the five shortlisted ideas which move one step closer to developing a design to make UK roads fit for the future and a £50,000 prize.

The innovation prize welcomed 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.

Launched in January, in collaboration with Highways England and Innovate UK, the NIC has praised the impressive range of entries which look to ensure UK roads are ready for connected and autonomous vehicles. After receiving 81 entries, the commission has confirmed the five going through to the competition’s final round.

The five shortlisted entries include AECOM, Arup, City Science, Immense Solutions and Leeds City Council. Each will now have three months to develop their ideas further, each working with a range of partner organisations to fully develop their idea. An overall winner will be announced in the autumn and will receive a £50,000 prize.

Chairman of the NIC, Sir John Armitt, said: “We can see for ourselves the progress in developing cars for the future, with trials of driverless cars taking place across the country – we now need to make sure the technology on our roads keeps up. The creativity and ingenuity of all the entries we received was very impressive, with many making the most of our existing network to prepare for these latest innovations. These five entries clearly stood out and I look forward to seeing how their ideas develop further over the coming months.”

The five winning entries include:

  • AECOM – examining how smart signals could advise drivers and vehicles the speed they should drive at, so they arrive at the next set of traffic lights just as they turn green, helping to cut congestion and ending polluting ‘stop-go’ driving. 
  • Arup – looking at how kerbsides with fixed features such as double yellow lines, parking bays and bus stops could become more flexible, their use changing according to the time of day and levels of demand to meet the most pressing needs. 
  • City Science – based in Exeter, this entry examines how sections of existing roads could be dedicated to driverless cars, making it easier to manage any risk and integrate CAVs into the existing transport network.
  • Immense Solutions – addressing how the latest artificial intelligence could be used to help sat-nav systems to ‘learn’ better routes to improve the directions given, so that both driven and driverless cars could change course to avoid congestion. 
  • Leeds City Council – examining how the data generated from digitally connected cars could be used to improve traffic light systems, allowing highway authorities to better manage traffic on their roads and reduce tailbacks.

Chair of the judging panel for the competition, Bridget Rosewell, said the amount of entries received demonstrated the industry interest in developing technology for the introduction of driverless cars.

She added: “We cannot afford to focus purely on the technology under the bonnet – we also have to consider how our roads will work to support new driverless cars from the moment they arrive. With 81 entries received, our Roads for the Future competition has demonstrated the keen interest there is across industry to be at the forefront of the technologies supporting the introduction of driverless cars. We wanted to see how the rules of the road, road design and traffic management could all be adapted to accommodate these new vehicles – and these five entries particularly demonstrated the exciting potential there is to make the best use of those we already have.”

This latest stage of the competition comes ahead of publication of the country’s first-ever National Infrastructure Assessment, which will make recommendations on the future shape of the UK road network, as well as issues including low-carbon energy, water resilience, digital technology and the future funding of major infrastructure.

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