Road marking quality could stall autonomous vehicles

| Transport

Road marking quality has big effect on driverless car performance
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The Road Safety Markings Association is calling for greater emphasis on infrastructure improvements to support growth in vehicle autonomy.

Academic and private sector innovation is driving developments in vehicle autonomy – backed in part by central government funding. Highways England is playing its part with the introduction of smart motorways and an investment strategy to support government ambitions to have “fully self-driving cars on UK roads by 2021”. But one of the greatest challenges is the UK’s network of underinvested local authority-maintained roads.

This is the message from Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) Chairman, Paul Aldridge, speaking at the Midlands Intelligent Mobility conference in Nottingham.

A funded, effective and, crucially, well-maintained infrastructure is at the core of the UK’s economy, and with more than 200 local authorities – each with different pressures and squeezed budgets – self-driving cars on anything but strategic roads looks like a distant dream, he says.

He points to the simple, reliable formula for roadmarkings: 150mm wide, at 150mcd (the measure for retroreflectivity), with 35mcd visibility on wet nights.

He quotes ‘Roads that Cars can Read’, a joint Euro NCAP and EuroRAP report: “Cars in the showroom today go much further in protecting life than vehicles a decade ago. They can warn, guide and brake by reading road markings and signs. At least half the travel on Europe’s roads by 2025 will be in vehicles equipped with these advanced technologies. Like drivers, automated vehicles cannot function well if basic road markings and signs are non-existent, non-compliant with international conventions, worn out, obscured, inconsistent or confusing. Well maintained lines conversely reduce accidents and increase mobility particularly for older drivers maintaining social bonds: surely this is win-win.”

Paul Aldridge goes on to say: “Monitoring and maintaining road markings is a vital part of well managed roads. Right now, we face the rigours of winter damage, and road-users’ priorities are potholes and worn markings. Only when we have roads that cars can read reliably can we truly have a high level of vehicle autonomy.”

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