British motorways are set to get new technology that will provide motorists with real-time information about the road network. The high-tech system will supply the latest information to electronic message signs on the network, as well as online journey planning platforms.

The new digital infrastructure will see the government-run organisation in charge of the country’s motorways and major A-roads, National Highways (formerly known as Highways England), transfer its data to cloud infrastructure for the first time. The organisation says that will help it collect data and “transform” the way in which the network is operated.

At the same time, the system will allow National Highways to share “accurate and up-to-date information” regarding planned works, delays or any other congestion with road users. The organisation hopes the new-look National Traffic Information Service (NTIS) will make sure “consistent and reliable information” is available on the country’s biggest and busiest routes.

Motorway sign to slow down for heavy rain and spray

At the same time, a new system will see a digital twin of the strategic road network take shape. In effect, this digital map of the motorways and A-roads will use machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict the conditions up to 24 hours in advance.

It’s hoped this technology will help to reduce the impact of both planned events, such as roadworks and football matches, and unplanned incidents such as road collisions, by improving the management of the road network.

Highways England's Smart Motorways

Meanwhile, National Highways is also getting a web-based service that should enable it to visualise traffic and signal data and monitor traffic speeds and flow. That will help the system calculate thresholds for automatic traffic signals to ensure variable speed limits are only in place when needed. It can also “identify performance issues” with detectors and record when signals are showing.

According to National Highways, the system will help to improve traffic flow and thereby reduce emissions from the strategic road network. It’s also intended to make journeys safer and faster for road users.

“This groundbreaking digital transformation will allow us to make positive changes to the way our roads are run and to vastly improve the journeys of road users both today and on the roads of the future,” said National Highways’ customer service director, Melanie Clarke. “This is a small part of our digital roads strategy, which is reverberating across National Highways and fundamentally changing how our roads are designed, built, operated and used.”