Smart roads have slowly made their way into major cities and towns around the world. Promising to provide a “safer” and “easier” way to travel, these types of roads are fitted with high tech cameras and signage, allowing speed to be checked, roads monitored and closed when needed, and traffic to be diverted in a safe and efficient way around any obstacles in the road (such as pedestrians or broken down vehicles). Even with their smart approach, there are some reasons why smart roads could be seen as a hindrance.
Whether road users like it or not, smart roads capture data, and a simple error could result in harsh consequences for drivers, from points on a licence to fines. On top of this, other data is taken in, and could potentially be used for different reasons unknown to the road user. And with some districts now enforcing a ban on diesel vehicles, could this data even be a means for local areas to see how profitable taxing diesel vehicles could be?
Human error exists
Even with smart technologies on our roads, there is still some human interaction needed at present. Cameras and signs need to be changed to tell road users when lanes are closed or speed restrictions are in place. Occasionally signs can be left on even after a disturbance has cleared on the road. Traffic could be left travelling at slow speeds without any reason to. This can cause traffic to slow, change lanes, and even increase the risk of a future collision. Cameras need to be observed on a regular basis to ensure that the information given to road users is accurate.
Upgrading roads and motorways to become smart is expensive and can mean long delays or even closure of roads at the beginning with prices sometimes in excess of tens of millions. When compared to the problems already surrounding our cities and towns which still exist, like potholes, old traffic lights, and street light problems, it’s worth wondering whether the cost is justifiable.
Smart roads can be a good thing. Their presence does help to combat real problems, such as helping to provide a clearer and safer way to travel, but if introduced without due diligence, they could have their own downsides. With time, smart roads will hopefully continue to develop to a point that they will reduce casualties and instil public confidence.