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The future of roads: Smart Motorways

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Dan and Bex are on a motorway and it‚Äôs not just any motorway ‚Äď it‚Äôs a smart motorway.¬† But what makes it such a¬†clever¬†clog?

Currently around 60% of all journeys are by car.  

With a growing population and cheaper vehicles, there will be even more cars on our roads every year. 

In fact, by 2050 there could be as many as 50% more cars than there currently are.  So, how might you solve the problem? Build more roads to take all the extra cars? 

That can be expensive and not great for the environment. Smart motorways help manage some of the increase in traffic ‚Äď WITHOUT building new roads. And it‚Äôs all done with technology.

Traffic waves are caused by sudden braking ‚Äď often a long way in front.¬† Ripples are sent backwards and traffic can become congested.¬†¬†

Smart motorways can detect waves and use signs to slow the traffic down in advance to help smooth waves like these away, and then increase the speed limit again when things improve.

Changing the number of lanes is another way smart motorways can help manage congestion. Using technology, the hard shoulder can be opened up for traffic at busy times. Or a more permanent change is to remove the hard shoulder and make it into a proper driving lane with special lay-bys every mile or so in case of emergencies.

The future is going to be an interesting place!¬†¬†As¬†Bex and Dan¬†have found,¬†sat¬†navs¬†and¬†map apps¬†help us find diversions and get alerts for problems¬†‚Äď and that‚Äôs¬†because they‚Äôre using information not just from the police and¬†people who¬†manage the roads,¬†but from other¬†drivers¬†too.¬† In the future,¬†fibre optic cables along the road¬†could¬†send information directly into¬†our vehicles¬†and devices.¬†

This is something already happening in Slovenia, where cars participating in a trial on the V21 Highway can get up to the minute information about road conditions.  A similar trial is happening on the A2 and M2 here in Britain.

MOBILE: Kids Guide to Transport: Rail and Road

Bex and Dan learn all about the future of Britain's roads and railways!

Are We There Yet? with support from the Royal Academy of Engineering

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Road to 2050

Find out more about why roads are built and how they help us get around the country.

More From Road to 2050