Road repair bill to rise if self-drive cars are to avoid potholes and pitfalls

New research is warning that the arrival of self-driving and connected cars adds weight to the case for improved highway maintenance, not only to tackle the huge backlog, but also to ensure the communication systems are up to standard.

A report for the RAC Foundation warns that experience from the aviation and rail sectors suggests that there could also be a need for a more highly-qualified and highly-paid workforce, not just to ensure highway surfaces are maintained in better condition, but also look after the network of telecoms equipment that connected cars will rely on.

The report Readiness of the road network for connected and autonomous vehicles by the consultancy CAS says that much will depend on the ability of autonomous vehicles to read the road and make allowances for potholes, poor road markings and complicated signals and signs and highlights the danger faced if any of the vehicles travelling in a fast-moving, close-formation platoon hits a pothole.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation (pictured), said, “Driverless cars will make decisions based on their best assessment of their surroundings. Throw in variables like potholes, unclear and obscured signs and lines, and intermittent communication coverage from our currently patchy network and you could find that far from offering the swift, comfortable travel we seek, our new autonomous cars are condemned to crawling along in proceed with caution mode.

“While motorists might accept a degree of human error and its consequences when they themselves are at the wheel, the experience from public transport is that when people are being driven rather driving they have almost zero tolerance for safety failings. The record on our roads is a long way from that today, but just focusing on the safety of the vehicle – its design and its software – isn’t going to bridge the gap. Getting the road infrastructure right is integral to ensuring an all-round safe system.”

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