Smart motorways emissions Ellis Fox Blog

Smart innovation – can smart technology help lower emissions on highways?

The technology for smart highways is already being rolled out on several major motorways in the UK, particularly in and around London. To date the focus of the smart technology has primarily been on reducing traffic congestion and improving road safety for commuters. As it turns out there could be another benefit that would go a long way to helping the UK meet its ambitious emissions targets.

Transportation is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and according to a report by the European environment agency, is the only sector that increased emissions between 1990 and 2008. New vehicle models and improved fuels have certainly contributed to the reduction in GHG in the past decade, but the number of vehicles has continued to increase which means realistically, the UK still has a long way to go to reach the emissions targets they have set out to achieve.

Can Smart Motorways make a difference?

There are a number of research papers that indicate smart motorways can indeed help reduce carbon emissions in a really simple way. The first is already part of smart motorway’s agenda – to reduce congestion. In a pilot project in Utah, USA an advanced smart network has been implemented on several main routes. The system is enhanced by communication devices on vehicles. If there is an accident or bad weather that is causing congestion, the system communicates directly with the vehicles diverting them onto alternate routes. This not only solves the issue of traffic backing up but also helps emergency services get through to the accident scene more easily. As a bonus, it’s also reducing emissions by not having a concentration of vehicles idling and emitting GHG while going nowhere.

The premise of reducing emissions with smart motorways is really simple and smart technology is the mechanism that can help make it happen. Not only can smart technology monitor vehicle speeds and make adjustments according to the amount of traffic on a section of highway, it can also measure compliance and aid in policing speed offenders. As vehicles become connected to the smart motorways systems and more people start to adopt EV technology, it is possible to make real headway with reducing carbon emissions.  With more funding being made available to support these initiatives, it will now be up to the infrastructure sector to make the most of these opportunities.