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Technology presents opportunity to defeat congestion

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Ambitious proposals to ‘abolish’ congestion that include road user charging and autonomous vehicles have been set out in a new report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR).

The report says that advances in technology provide an opportunity to end congestion while cutting the cost of motoring by around a third and reducing accidents by 90%.

It highlights that two clear technological trends are currently emerging when it comes to road usage. These are the shift away from fossil fuels as an energy source and the move towards autonomous self driving vehicles.

Together these are expected to reduce the cost of driving and cut payments of fuel duty. This will enable a new system of road pricing to be introduced over the next 20 years which CEBR says should charge car drivers at a rate averaging 8p per mile.

The group predicts that under this model road users will save money overall while their road usage receipts will allow the Government to increase spending on roads to at least £20Bn a year – double today’s figure.

It adds that ‘surge’ pricing at times of high demand would reduce road consumption at peak periods and could provide additional revenue to fund new road space in busy areas.

The report also encourages the establishment of a politically independent National Roads Authority to which control of the entire road system would be passed. This body would be responsible for receiving the charges levied on road users and reinvesting them in the road system, it is proposed.

Furthermore the report backs a move to vehicle autonomy and suggests that conventional vehicles could start to be phased out on motorways as early as the 2030s. By the 2050s it suggests that virtually all roads should be autonomous only while cyclists and pedestrians use fully segregated routes.

“We believe that apart from making roads less congested, cleaner and safer our approach should boost GDP by up to 3%. This prize is sufficiently large that we ought to be working hard to eliminate the obstacles to the solution so that these huge benefits to road users and non-road users can be achieved.

Photo: Garry Knight / Creative Commons