A US start-up hopes to create intelligent road infrastructures to bring large-scale autonomous road systems online within five years.

Detroit in the US state of Michigan was, for a large part of the 20th century, the beating heart of the world’s auto industry. Even today, it serves as the HQ for both General Motors and Ford. And now, thanks to a partnership between the state and tech company Cavnue, it could be home to some of the first mass adoptions of everyday self-driving technology.

The plan is to create a 40-mile corridor of roads – or lanes within highways – dedicated to self-driving car use. A bit like the car-pool lanes found on many busy routes around the world

So why will this make autonomous traffic a reality sooner?

The problem with self-driving cars, as the technology currently stands, is that their interactions with humans can be problematic. For example, they sometimes have trouble ‘recognising’ a human, which has led to accidents. Another issue is that autonomous vehicles follow the rules of the road to the letter, while human drivers will often bend them or even break them. Other human drivers inherently understand this risk; self-driving tech doesn’t currently really account for it.

As a result, allowing self-driving cars to mix freely with human-driven traffic is a significant challenge.

The solution to this problem? Easy. Separation. Cavnue hopes to build a network of road infrastructure that ensures cars with self-driving tech only need to deal with traffic using similar technology, making traffic flow much more predictable and giving the self-driving systems an easier job.

How’s it going to work?

The plan is to create a 40-mile stretch of a road network between the Michigan cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor, with construction set to begin in 2023

Although the exact details of the technology involved are yet to be ironed out, the idea is that the system will use a combination of physically separate lanes, plus ‘intelligent’ intersections that will be able to communicate with vehicles via 5g. It will also feature signage that’s specifically designed to be easier for self-driving car technology to read and process accurately.

What will stop it succeeding

There are two fundamental stumbling blocks to the Cavnue plan. The first is cost as it’s estimated that it’s going to take £7m per mile to implement. The second issue is space for dedicated lanes, if you consider how hard it is to find space for dedicated cycle lanes, it soon becomes clear that finding space for dedicated self-driving routes will be no easy task.

Whatever the costs, however, what’s clear is that, for self-driving tech to become a reality, roads are going to have to get smarter along with the cars that drive on them.

Author: Appthisway.com