In the UK we are getting ready for the future of travelling in the 21st century and beyond. This means that by 2030 all petrol and diesel cars will be banned for new sales, making way for all electric cars. And self driving cars are coming very soon to the roads in Britain. To do this the UK is making its motorways smart. Driverless cars will become legal on British roads in 2025.
Question: Where did he test the hands-free car?
What is a smart motorway?
A smart motorway is a stretch of road where technology is used to regulate traffic flow and – hopefully – ease congestion.
There are three main types:
- controlled, which have a permanent hard shoulder, but use technology such as variable speed limits to adjust traffic flows
- dynamic, where the hard shoulder can be opened up at peak times and used as an extra lane; when this happens, the speed limit is reduced to 60mph.
- all-lane running, where the hard shoulder has been permanently removed to provide an extra lane; emergency refuge areas are provided at regular intervals for cars that get into trouble
All three models use overhead gantries to direct drivers. Variable speed limits are introduced to control traffic flow when there is congestion, or if there is a hazard ahead. These limits are controlled by speed cameras.
On dynamic motorways, the overhead gantries also tell drivers whether or not they can drive on the hard shoulder. A red X is displayed if a lane is closed, for example, due to an accident or breakdown, and traffic is monitored using closed circuit television.
If drivers get into trouble, they are meant to aim for the emergency refuge areas (essentially laybys) placed at intervals along the road.
All-lane running schemes operate in the same way, except there is no hard shoulder at all.
Where are the existing smart motorways?
At the end of 2020 there were 369 miles of smart motorways in England, including 168 miles without a hard shoulder.
The first sections of controlled motorway were introduced on the M25 in the 1990s. Nowadays. almost the entire route around London is made up of either controlled or all-lane running sections.
Dynamic sections – which are currently being phased out and replaced with all-lane running – are largely concentrated along the M6 and the M42 in the Midlands, as well as on the M62 outside Leeds and Bradford.
Elsewhere, significant parts of the M1, the M6, the M3 and the M4 have all been converted to either controlled or all-lane running, along with other parts of the M62 and M42.
Are smart motorways dangerous?
Motorways in general are pretty safe – they account for far fewer casualties than rural or urban roads, despite the high speeds involved.
The big question is whether smart motorways are more dangerous than conventional ones.
Controlled motorways where speed limits vary are not the problem. Statistically, they are safer than any other kind.
It’s the removal of the hard shoulder – either permanently or temporarily – that causes concern. Vehicles can be left stranded in a stream of fast-flowing traffic, and emergency vehicles may struggle to get through to an incident.
According to government figures obtained by Panorama in 2020, 38 people were killed on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019.
Figures quoted by the Commons’ Transport Committee show that the number of deaths on motorways without a hard shoulder rose from 5 in 2017 to 15 in 2019. But the size of the network also increased.
Separately, research into the first stretches of motorway converted to all-lane running show that although the rate of fatal and serious injuries went up, the number of overall casualties went down.
However, all-lane running motorways haven’t been in operation for very long, so there isn’t a huge amount of available data.
RAC (Royal Automobile Club) research previously found a clear majority of people were in favour of scrapping all-lane running motorways, and bringing back the hard shoulder.
But the hard shoulder is itself a safety risk – one in 12 motorway deaths occur there.
In the UK in 2030 it will be illegal to sell a new petrol or diesel car, van or truck. All new road vehicles will be 100% electric. That’s
only eight years away. Part of this monumentous change tens-of-thousands of charge points are being installed in our streets, homes and at garage forecourts. If you buy an all electric car today in Britain your electricity company will install your home-charge-point free of charge. The cost is included in the price of the car.
Discuss the benefits of smart self driving cars in your city. Could Sao Paulo do more to reduce road accidents?
Write 150 words about the pros and cons of smart motorways and self driving cars in your city.
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