Kier Highways has been testing how existing highway infrastructure could be used to help make digital roads a reality for motorists.

Bandwidth has restricted air wave transmissions in the past, but with the roll-out of 5G and the Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures, lighting could potentially be equipped with devices such as wireless access points and cameras.

A recent trial showed that closed circuit television and wireless technology, that enables vehicles to communicate, is among the kit that could be neatly stored inside the lanterns of streetlights alongside the National Highways network.

Paving the way for autonomous vehicles, the technology stored in streetlights could be used to push out information on traffic updates, speed limits and diversions – helping vehicles to plan journeys more effectively.

The trial, called ‘Illuminate’, was carried out on the M40 junction 15 Longbridge roundabout, near Birmingham. The CCTV and communications technology hidden away in the streetlamp was installed when the lights were switched to the improved, more energy-efficient LED lighting.

The five-month trial was successful showing how technology could send data to office equipment and tablet computers. The knowledge gained in the trial will be used to help shape National Highways’ strategy for managing the Connected and Autonomous (CAV) infrastructure.

Carla Vicente, project manager at Kier Highways, said: “The Illuminate project has been a great example of collaboration across internal Kier teams, our client National Highways, the supply chain and the manufacturer.

“This proof of concept will feed into other future projects and the learnings will help to deliver more collaborative and sustainable projects which support National Highways’ Carbon Net Zero targets.

“Being able to install technology, such as CCTV, while we are replacing street lighting is a more efficient way of working and provides better value for customers. More importantly, it is a safer and less disruptive way of working, reducing the amount of road closures required.”

National Highways’ Innovations Lead for the Midlands, Lisa Maric, said: “These are exciting times as we progress on our Digital Roads journey with the growth of digital technology and the move to electric, connected and autonomous vehicles that will fundamentally change how we use roads in the future.

“National Highways is committed to ensuring we are at the forefront of this digital revolution and are paving the way for the greener and safer roads of tomorrow.

“Initial trials such as Illuminate will help us identify new innovations, technology and methods to meet our digital goals. We were pleased with how Illuminate performed as a proof of concept and the useful knowledge gained as we continue to plan for the roads of the future.”