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I am smarter than you! In the next 10 years we may see driverless cars become a reality. Technology has arguably advanced more in the last 2 decades in the automobile industry than anywhere else. Only a generation ago there was no power steering, no ABS, and only very basic traffic light systems.

Even the basic model of any car bought in the last 5 years has a variety of technological measures to increase your safety. The level of detail in modern cars is incredible.

Smart MotorwaysInterestingly, the road has equally evolved. We now have traffic lights which control the flow depending on the level of traffic, roundabouts which illuminate the correct lane depending on which traffic lights are green and variable speed limits and warning signs.

Smart Motorways were introduced in England in 2006 on the M42 and are now making their way up to Scotland. The control centres monitor traffic carefully and can activate and change signs and speed limits. This helps keep the traffic flowing quickly. The hard shoulder is temporarily open to traffic and the speed in each lane can be adjusted depending on traffic. If there is an accident the lane is closed and drivers are alerted by the signs above head. The use of the hard shoulder has been controversial in terms of safety but the studies show there has been no accidents as a result. The M42 test showed over a quarter reductions in journey time, less variation in journey time, 10% fall in pollution and 4% fall in fuel consumption.  Time will tell, but there is no doubt greater technology is leading to greater safety.

There is a pilot programme in Australia which has enough data to predict, with a 90% accuracy, an accident occurring within the next 30 minutes. This allows the control centre to reduce speed limits on that stretch of road thus preventing or limiting accidents. In the future this info will be fed into the computer systems of our driverless cars and road traffic accidents and the lives lost as a result will be a thing of the past.

Times are indeed changing. Cars are moving with the times and so are the roads. We must ensure our attitudes are not left behind and that we engage with technology and use it to make our roads safer.

Blog by Alan Calderwood

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