Digital in-car road signs to be trialled in November

Hi-tech system means drivers of the future could have real-time traffic news beamed straight to their cars

Smart motorways
(Image credit: GEM Motoring Assist)

Road signs and motorway gantries could soon be a thing of the past thanks to new technology capable of sending traffic information directly to cars. The new system will be trialled at the end of the year.

A report published by Highways England, the Government-backed agency that manages the UK’s major roads and motorways, says information and warnings could be transmitted live to motorists in their cars, according to The Sunday Times.

Drivers would be given information on digital screens regarding “variable speed limits and warnings of traffic jams ahead”, the newspaper says. The screens would also tell drivers when they were approaching road works so they could change lanes “well in advance”.

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According to Auto Express, Highways England plans to run the 5G wireless infrastructure “down the central reservation” on the A2/M2 section of motorway between Dover and London.

During the pilot scheme, the 5G system will wirelessly stream information into a handful of cars fitted with specially-designed digital displays, the magazine says. But it’s hoped that data could be sent directly to a car’s infotainment system in the future.

Highways England plans to begin trialling the hi-tech system from November this year to December 2020. The new technology is expected to cost up to £20m, says The Sun.

While the paper says the in-car signage aims to “improve driver awareness and safety”, as well as potentially reduce the number of road signs, some motoring experts say that permanent signs have their virtues.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation motoring group, says road signs offer “the perfect back-up for when the hi-tech solution fails.”

He adds: “While having still better, faster real-time journey information displayed in-vehicle is a good thing, we’re a long way from having technology in every vehicle that completely replaces the reassurance we get from having a permanent sign”.

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