A €90 million investment programme in the Netherlands will help prepare the country for the arrival of self-driving cars.
From 2017, more than 1,000 traffic lights throughout the country will be converted to smart mobility systems, which can communicate with vehicles and each other.
Their immediate use will be to help reduce congestion by improving the flow of traffic, but they will also be able to communicate with autonomous car systems to help them navigate around congested cities. The system can also be used by connected cars, with speed advice and congestion information appearing on in-car displays.
The connected traffic lights will be able to prioritise different types of traffic and transmit information to in-car systems, such as the time before a traffic light changes, the causes of traffic jams and the location of available parking spaces.
Upgrades to infrastructure as part of the Talking Traffic project will take until 2020. The Dutch government sees the move as a stepping stone to the introduction of autonomous driving.
A key part of the project is an independent data services hub, provided by KPN, which allows rival companies to work together without sharing sensitive information.
The development is part of the national Better Utilisation initiative, a national project to reduce congestion and cut travel times.
This has included live trials of autonomous cars on public roads. The demonstration was held on the A58, one of the busiest motorways in the Netherlands on a section with 34 roadside beacons that provide data to cars quickly over wi-fi. In the trial autonomous cars automatically adjusted their speed based on advice transmitted from the roadside that warned them of traffic congestion several kilometres ahead.
According to Autovista Intelligence’s Autonomous Car report, a key to putting driverless cars on the road will be the level of public spending on infrastructure that enables them to operate.
Across Europe, billions of euros in road investments will be required and there are concerns that the public sector may struggle to find the funds to meet manufacturers’ ambitions to roll-out fully-autonomous cars within 10 years.
To make the quickest progress, authorities are likely to focus their investment where it will have the biggest impact, such as in cities and urban areas.
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