According to 1980s movie classic Back to the Future: Part II, we were all meant to have been zooming around the skies in flying cars circa 2015. Sadly, that ended up not being the case. But when we look ahead from now to the near future, it’s clear there are some exciting technological developments ahead for UK roads.
From autonomous vehicles to digital motorways and more, join us as we look at five technologies set to change UK roads forever.
When will electric cars take over in the UK?
With the end of production for petrol and diesel vehicles happening in 2030, and the end of hybrid vehicle production slated for five years after that, we are just over a decade away from electric cars completely taking over in the UK. But with the EU’s first fleet emission reduction targets set for 2025, that transition is happening in a big way for business fleets right now.
All of which makes us wonder: What will the future of roads look like? Read on to get some idea…
Five innovations that will shape the future of roads in the UK
1. Longer-range EVs and faster charging points
With the widespread move to EVs on the horizon, another common question we get often is “will EV batteries get better?” The answer is.. yes! According to this article by Car and Driver, EV makers are currently deep into researching the next generation of electric car battery, the solid-state cell, which are expected to be distinctly more energy dense, as well as being safer too. We’re likely to see them pop up from 2025 in high-ticket vehicles, but the technology could be in place on a more mass-market level come the 2030 end to petrol and diesel vehicle manufacture.
Of course, the bigger the battery capacity, the longer it will take to charge, so advancement in charging speeds will need to match them stride for stride. This piece by National Geographic claims that new battery materials could see charging times improve to an 80% charge within 20 minutes on many electric vehicles; while one test under laboratory conditions has been able to charge an EV battery to 50% in only three minutes.
Nobody knows exactly how EV battery and charge tech will evolve, but one thing’s for sure: they’re easily the first pick amongst the biggest technologies set to change UK roads forever.
2. 5G and Internet of Things (IoT)
Up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G also allows up to 100 times more devices to connect to it at once. That will make 5G foundational for many of the technologies set to change UK roads.
For one thing, it promises to revolutionise our transport systems. This article by Highways Magazine says that 50% of road traffic uses only 7% of available roads, and goes on to explain how 5G can help in rerouting traffic to make everyone’s journeys run more smoothly.
This will work so well because more and more vehicles are carrying sensors that allows these 5g connected cars to be monitored and fed back to in real time. These sensors mean they belong to the Internet of Things, with fleets in particular likely to benefit from far more advanced telematics systems employing this technology. Route planning, fuel consumption, driving habits and more could all be monitored more closely to help fleets increase efficiencies, all because of 5G and Internet of Things cars, vans and more besides.
3. Electric motorways
The future of roads themselves also looks likely to be electric. One example is the prospect of overhead wire-powered electric motorways currently being investigated by climate change company Costain. If commissioned this project will not only create thousands of jobs, but also hundreds of thousands of specially-designed vehicles over 10-15 years.
Another potential option could involve solar roadways, which involves installing solar panels you can walk and drive on. Able to cut greenhouse gases by up to 75%, a major benefit of this approach is that the panels actually generate electricity, giving private companies and governments alike the prospect of generating their own power in a high eco-friendly, self-sustaining virtuous circle.
4. Smart roads
As well as roads that generate their own power, we might also be seeing fully digital roads in the not too far future. We mentioned traffic management and vehicle rerouting above, but smart roads are what will make that possible. Imagine a digital motorway that responds to traffic fluctuations or changing weather conditions by opening up more lanes or creating diversions on the fly. Likewise, these digital roads could also assign priority charging lanes, which will actually charge electric vehicles simply via drivers driving on them.
5. Self-driving vehicles
This might sound the most far-fetched, but in reality, the move towards self-driving cars has already begun!
The Society of Automotive Engineers defines six levels of automation that go into truly autonomous vehicles, with some of those levels already in use in today’s production vehicles, or being investigated by major technology companies.
- Level zero: Manual steering only
- Level one: technology designed to make steering easier, like lane-keep assist
- Level two: where the car can manage its speed and steering on its own without human input
- Level three: Complete automated control with a driver behind the wheel at low speeds
- Level four: A fully driverless experience within a given geofenced area only
- Level five: Full automation, as seen in many Hollywood movies.
While we’re still decades away from self-driving cars in the UK (or anywhere else), Google’s Waymo is already testing at level four, while Tesla’s Autopilot runs at level two and the Honda Legend operates at level three.
The switch to electric starts today
The future of roads and driving on them is electric: that much is clear. But while some of these technologies are still far off, ever-climbing combustion fuel costs and impending emissions deadlines make moving to EVs the smart choice in the here and now for many business fleets.
If you’re starting your fleet’s transition to EVs, or are weighing up doing so, we can help. Take a look at the blogs below to learn more about going electric, or get in touch with us to discuss your needs.