Be patient! The signs on the M1 said. You may be crawling past traffic cones and avaerage speed cameras in your Jaguar XE, but we are creating a Smart Motorway. It won’t always be like this! (I’m paraphrasing.)
I was quite excited at the idea of a Smart motorway – what could it do? I wondered. So I Googled it.
I was being held up by a £205.8 million project on behalf of the Government along 20 miles of the M1. It will have overhead digital signs, variable speeds and if it’s congested, you can use the hard shoulder as an extra lane. Great. Where do trucks pull over to as their tyres shred?
This is not Smart - at least not a Grade A with 5 stars. And it’s not new, the M25 has had this for years. With all the advanced technology available, motorways should not only be smart, they should be disproving Fermat’s theorem by now.
We have the technology for motorways to be talking to cars about congestion, accidents, fog or danger before they hit it. This could be using beacons beside the road, or strips in the surface, or how about patches that recharge electric cars while they sit in jams?
It must have been in the early 1980s when I first heard about the idea of cars joining a ‘train’ on the motorway. Using intelligent cruise control they could drive as one, much faster and closer together than they do now. Now autonomous cars and EVs are becoming a reality, this should be possible. Yes, the legal and insurance implications are a barrier, but we’ve had more than 30 years to sort things out.
Then there’s noise. I was pleased to read that work was going on to reduce noise from the M40. But it’s just some barriers – very low-tech. I looked in vain on Tarmac’s website to see if there were any obvious stories talking about new quieter surfaces, so we don’t hear that tyre roar for miles over the beautiful countryside. Maybe it would even mean developers could build new homes closer to the motorway. Sure somebody is working on this - and quieter tyres.
The trouble is, as with many things, no one stands to make a big profit from these things. It needs a holistic approach and a big carrot or stick from government.
If I knew some of these smart things were coming, I wouldn't mind being held up for a while.