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Mind the gap - why developing current technology is just as important as new ideas

Last October 2017 I wrote an article on how we should concentrate on developing existing technology to bridge the gap between here and utopian future of autonomous vehicles. Having disruptive shifts in technology seems to have gathered public support over the past 10 years but the article, published in Highways Magazine, argues that whilst the autonomous future promised many benefits, it was only through concentrating on how to utilise existing technology in new ways that we would stand a chance of reaching the future in a coherent manner. The other option would be to jump to new technology, creating potential gaps in compatibility such as how to handle use of self-drive cars on the roads at the same time as autonomous ones.

Part of the article mentioned how the Clearview SolarLite LED studs could evolve from delineation use into an IoT sensor. This kind of thinking is a good example of taking existing ideas and evolving then with new technology.

Whilst there may be a long way to go before we see IoT sensor studs operational in UK roads, with the testing and approval process of Highways England always a challenge to navigate, Clearview’s SolarLite studs have over 20 years of in road development behind them. Hundreds of thousands of studs having been deployed across UK roads and more widely across many countries internationally.

Those years of in-road use have yielded many lessons and enabled us to continue to develop the studs as the technology has progressed. This year we have been trialling a stud that uses the latest in LED lighting to produce a brighter and purer white light. It is yielding 2.5 greater luminosity, which is an important factor in seeing the road layout ahead once the stud goes beyond the reach of a cars headlights and loses the reflective nature of more traditional studs. Being able to see the road layout up to 900m ahead means a driver can anticipate and have more time to respond to the situation ahead of them, which also creates a more relaxed and enjoyable driving experience.

These trials have included a stretch of the A38 south of the M1 near Alfreton, Derbyshire where over 4,400 new studs have been put in place to help delineate junctions and bends on a dualled stretch of the road.

The development of these studs has not been a jump in technology but more of an evolution. Using our years of experience and knowledge of road stud design, coupled with taking advantage of new technology, we have been able to evolve the product. It is this evolution and merging of current solutions with new technology that will provide the pathway to a safer future on our roads without the gaps that a disruptive shift has the potential danger to produce.

Author: Andrew R |Date Published: May 2018

Links: Route Safety Connected & Autonomous Vehicles

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