England’s road network will become more ‘intelligent’ in the future, with drones being used to report accidents and connected vehicles helping to improve efficiency.

That’s the vision put forward by Highways England in its Strategic Road Network Initial Report, which sets out the government’s plans for the country’s arterial routes.

The 108-page document proposes a number of high-tech ideas, including the introduction of 5G coverage to ‘maximise the productivity benefits’ of self-driving cars and using the Internet of Things to better manage traffic on so-called smart motorways.

In the shorter term, however, Highways England says it wants to focus on improving information available to motorists using the strategic road network and delivering ‘more reliable’ and ‘seamless’ journeys.

The government-run company also wants to reduce costs while still delivering a more technologically advanced network – an aim it plans to achieve by considering ‘whole-life’ costs to ensure value.

As a result, the organisation aims to make proactive improvements to road surfaces to ensure patches have longer lifespans, establish a sustainably powered lighting system and increase the network’s resilience to incidents and natural hazards such as flooding.

Other plans include a policy of improving road signs and markings to make the network usable for autonomous vehicles and to increase the effectiveness of existing driver assistance systems such as lane departure warning.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said: ‘We are delivering a record £15 billion of government investment to give people safe, efficient and reliable journeys, and provide businesses with the links they need to prosper and grow.

‘Because people’s journeys are important to us we are setting out our high level aspirations which will help ensure the network continues to drive economic growth, jobs and prosperity, and keeps traffic moving today, and into the future.

‘We encourage people to read our report and feedback through the Department for Transport’s consultation.’

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