Good quality roads are a vital part of the European transport network, enabling access to employment, education and leisure activities. Despite the large and generally well-maintained network within Europe, there are estimates that daily congestion causes a loss equivalent to 1% of Europe’s GDP, or around €200 billion annually. Coupled with this, future projections suggest there will be significant increased demand, for example freight transport is expected to group by 57% between 2010 and 2050.
Yet despite these challenges, it will simply not be possible for road authorities to build more roads to deal with this additional traffic. Whilst there will be certain schemes to deal with specific issues, such as junction improvements, by-passes and localised lane widening, in most European countries there is neither the money nor political will for widespread road construction. Besides, it is generally accepted that building more roads tends to increase traffic through induced demand, where people take trips they might not normally or travel further for work or other reasons . Anyone who has ever visited Los Angeles will understand that building more and more roads is not the best way to move large numbers of people in an urban environment.
Another challenge facing road administrations is the uncertainty surrounding the future of mobility; will connected and automated vehicles lead to more or less traffic? Can mobility as a service significantly impact private vehicle ownership? Will micro-mobility services such as e-scooters address urban congestion issues? With these unknowns, a road administration could procure a new road and find that upon construction that it was under or over-specified, or that it didn’t meet the requirements of the users.
Recognising the challenges facing road owners and operators, the Forum of European Highway Research Laboratories initiated the Forever Open Road programme in 2010 to provide a vision for roads in the 21st Century. The Forever Open Road Programme works towards developing a next generation of advanced and affordable roads that can be adopted both for maintaining the existing network and building new roads. This will enable future road operators to adopt emerging innovation, whilst overcoming the increasing constraints on capacity, sustainability, reliability and integration. Maple Consulting has been managing the programme on behalf of FEHRL and its institutes since 2016.
There are 3 elements to the Forever Open Road programme; the Resilient Road, which focusses on ensuring service levels are maintained even under extreme weather conditions, the Automated Road which focusses on the integration of ICT and the Adaptable Road which focusses on ways to allow road operators to respond in a flexible manner the changes in road user demands and which ultimately integrates the automated and resilient elements.
Roadmaps for each of the three elements were published in 2013 which identified research and innovation topics with milestones set for 2015, 2020 and 2025 focussing on development of single technologies, sub-system proving and implementation on a system level respectively. Recognising that the 2015 milestone had been passed, an update of the roadmaps was undertaken to reflect on progress made against milestone 1, ensure that the innovation topics remained relevant, adding or refocussing as required. A further area of focus was to move beyond the concepts identified in the first document, looking towards research, demonstration and implementation projects. The Resilient Road Roadmap update was published in March 2017 and the Adaptable Roadmap update in April 2018. The Automated Road Roadmap update was completed in December 2018 and has now been professionally laid out and the graphic design completed. One of the most pleasing aspects of this roadmap was the close participation of the USA via the Turner-Fairbanks Highway Research Center of the FHWA as co-leader, with the overall roadmap led by French FEHRL member IFSTTAR in conjunction with Blevarque sprl, with support from Maple Consulting as FOR Programme Manager and FEHRL member institutes, most notably, VTI, VGTU , LNEC and AIT.
The Automated Roadmap has two main innovation themes of Intelligent Traffic Management Systems and Advanced Infrastructure Communication Systems, each with various innovation topics.The innovation topics under the Intelligent Traffic Management Systems there are as follows:
• Cooperative systems and automated transport In-built and wireless sensors
• Optimisation of network utilisation
• Traffic management for extreme weather conditions and maintenance
• Incident and disaster management systems and processes
• Remote operation concepts
• User orientated multimodal traffic and travel information services
• Cyber Security
• Vehicle Sensors V2X, I2X Vehicle Sensors V2X, I2X
• Building Information Model (BIM)
The innovation topics under the Intelligent Traffic Management Systems there are as follows:
• In-built and wireless sensors
• Open Standard interfaces
• Vehicle recharging systems
• Low energy lighting and signage
• Automated asset condition monitoring and forecasting
• Integration of alternative energy sources and utility functions
In all, 35 individual research topics are identified within the themes listed above looking towards a 2030 timeframe and identifying 4 stages of development, namely; research and development, demonstration, regulatory framework and market introduction. As well as identifying research challenges, specific enablers are identified, which could be for example, technological projects or changes to the regulatory environment which will help realise the challenges.
The document identified numerous projects that are addressing the 2015 targets and maps research projects against each innovation theme, with several projects identified in each theme, if not in each individual topic. The concept of the hybrid road is discussed as a possible scenario where, with very high penetration levels of autonomous vehicles, it might prompt adaptation to highway infrastructure in some locations.
The document also provides information on four national projects that address various elements of the Resilient Road, namely R5G – the 5th Generation Road (France), R21C – Roads in the 21st Century (Germany) the E39 Coast Highway Route (Norway) and the Exploratory Advanced Research Programme (USA). Additionally, it lists over 30 projects identified that respond to various innovation themes of the Automated Road as well as identifying a number of demonstration projects.The FOR Programme doesn’t have any specific funds to undertake research but rather influences national and European research calls in the area and uses the FEHRL network to disseminate widely.
The 2018 Automated Road Roadmap is available as a free download from the respective banners on the homepages of both the Forever Open Road (www.foreveropenroad.eu) and FEHRL website (www.fehrl.org). The Resilient and Adaptable Road Roadmaps are also available from these locations.