Who invented the smart road?

SMART Highways have continued to have mixed reviews since they were first officially put into service in 2014.

But who invented these concepts and when were they first tested? Here’s all you need to know.

There are now 236 miles of smart motorways in the UK


There are now 236 miles of smart car roads in the UK

Who invented smart motorways and why were they introduced?

Smart car road was first introduced by Highways England – a government owned company.

Their goal, according to the RAC, is to “manage traffic in a way that minimizes environmental impact, costs, and construction time by avoiding the need for additional lanes.”

A series of Governments considered this a desirable concept and began longitudinal testing of the 14-mile M25 in 1995.

After initial success, it was soon expanded to cover hundreds of more miles of motorways across the country from the 2000s onwards.

Smart highways currently fall into three main groups:

  • All running lanes (ARL)
  • Under control
  • Stiff shoulder movements.

ARL means there are highways don’t have a hard shoulder, the driver must instead rely on the Emergency Refuge Area.

Smart motorways often use technology to manage traffic flow during busy times – for example, by changing speed limits.

Controlled motorway sections use technology to manage traffic flow during busy times.

Drivers can change the speed limit – with bright signs on the overhead poles – with the aim of minimizing the annoying start-stop driving that often occurs on normal roads.

Meanwhile, dynamic hard-shoulder roads can also increase road capacity by opening hard-shoulders at busy times.

Where is the first smart car road?

The first smart car road map were used on the M42 in 2006 when formal trials began on their safety and effectiveness.

Government figures are said to be so impressive that then Transport Secretary, Ruth Kelly, announced that £150m would be spent to expand the scheme.

At the time, Ms. Kelly said: “People get from the front door to their workplace in a much more believable timeframe.

“The safety that some feared hasn’t materialized and not only that, it’s good for the economy and the environment.”

By 2010, a £2 billion contract was announced to bring “really impressive” engineering to the M1, M4, M5, M6, M60 and M62.

And in 2013, so-called smart highways were coined by the Highways Authority to promote the technology to road users.

Former Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly described motorways as'really impressive' after they were tested in 2006


Former Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly described motorways as ‘really impressive’ after they were tested in 2006

Are smart roads dangerous?

As of January 2022, the Government continues to describe smart motorways as “one of the safest roads in the UK” even if it decided to suspend the implementation plan due to safety concerns.

There have been at least 38 deaths on smart car roads since they were introduced in the UK, although the number is likely higher.

In fact, the death rate on so-called smart highways is up to a third higher than on conventional highways with hard shoulders, officials revealed.

And last year, The Sun newspaper revealed that The highways are considered very dangerous, AA will not allow crime squads to stop on them.

The number of near misses on a segment of the reconfigured M25 outside London has increased 20-fold to 1,485 in the five years since the stiff shoulder was removed.

Listen to 999 moments of a man’s call before he and his family were hit by a truck at 50 mph on a smart highway without difficulty Who invented the smart road?

Fry Electronics Team

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