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The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has launched a competition to encourage new ideas to ensure UK roads are ready for connected and autonomous vehicles.

The innovation prize rewards ideas which explore issues as diverse as how roads can be shared by driverless and driven vehicles, how a national charging network for electric cars can be rolled out and how existing infrastructure can be adapted to be fit-for-purpose for the changes that lie ahead. It will seek ideas which work across the entirety of the network – from residential streets to country lanes, via motorways.

The competition is open to businesses in the sector, as well as academia and is split into three categories:

  • The design of roads and related infrastructure – how will existing roads need to be adapted to meet the needs of new driverless cars?
  • Traffic management – how will key features such as traffic lights and other methods of traffic control need to adapt to meet the needs of different vehicle types?; and
  • Road rules and regulations – how should current restrictions, for example, speed limits, and parking and loading rules, be updated for this new environment?

An expert panel drawn from industry, academia, government and the public sector will judge the entries, with the five best each receiving £30,000 to further test and develop their ideas. The ultimate winner will be announced later in the year.

NIC chair, John Armitt, said: “Our Roads for the Future competition offers the chance to be at the cutting edge of shaping how we travel for generations to come. That’s why we want to put people’s minds to this test. Whether from industry or academia, we want to see them submit their ideas for developing a world-class roads network that can meet the challenge that this new technology presents.”

Responding to the competition, president of the AA, Edmund King, said: “In a future landscape of connected and driverless vehicles, this competition could be an important catalyst to ensure the safety of all road users, as well as a blueprint to ease congestion and keep the economy moving.”

The competition has been organised in response to the chancellor’s announcement in the November budget and is being run in conjunction with Highways England and Innovate UK. Entries are being accepted until 14 March 2018.

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