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Last edited 06 Sep 2021
Digital Roads 2025
On 2 September 2021, National Highways (formerly Highways England) launched Digital Roads 2025, through which they will work with tech partners to adopt digital technologies for the move to electric, connected and autonomous vehicles.
 Initial components of the programme
The work is being undertaken with assistance from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the EU MSCA COFUND programme, construction and engineering company Costain and the University of Cambridge. Funds for the system are coming from two grants: the £8.6 million EPSRC Digital Roads Prosperity Partnership grant and the £6 million EU MSCA COFUND Future Roads Fellowships programme.
Intelligent road materials are also part of the programme. Once incorporated into existing road surfaces, these materials will be able to combine ‘live’ data with a digital twinning system that visualises the road and its condition. This technology will make it possible to identify when maintenance work is needed and will allow roads to repair themselves using self-healing technology.
Also in use or being developed are connected and autonomous plant, off-site fabrication and modular construction methods. It is hoped tthese systems could reduce scheme delivery times by up to 50% while limiting disruption (and increasing safety) for drivers and cutting the associated carbon emissions by around 50%.
Network operation is becoming more automated and data driven. The use of technology - such as sensors - enables National Highways to pre-empt situations rather than just respond to them. This includes forecasting and adjusting conditions to respond to traffic levels, weather and environmental conditions.
Communication with drivers is also improving, ensuring that accurate information is available to help plan journeys through digital channels. Longer term, the deployment of connected and autonomous vehicles is expected to improve traffic flow and reduce incidents by up to 90%.
 Looking beyond 2025
In development for 2050 and beyond are freight platooning, personalised in-vehicle messaging (as well as vehicles sharing data) and roads that relay information without the use of traditional signage. Additional financial resources will be provided through the Innovation and Modernisation designated fund.
 Related articles
- Defining the digital twin: seven essential steps.
- Digital twin.
- Five years of road investment strategy.
- Government construction and infrastructure pipelines.
- Highways England.
- How can infrastructure be retrofitted in the digital age?
- How to keep roads future-proof.
- Road investment strategy.
- Smart motorways procurement plan.
- What a digital twin could be.
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