British highway to become internet-connected 'network of sensors' over 50-mile stretch

In a team-up between the UK's Department of Transport, BT and Cambridge start-up Neul, the A14 (which connects Felixstowe to Birmingham) will be transformed into the country's first internet-connected road, with the aim of preparing the country for future tech from wireless toll chargers to automated cars. The smart road will include a network of sensors across a 50-mile segment, with data transmission delivered over white space. Ofcom approved the project yesterday, alongside its plans for the rest of the spectrum space. According to the regulator, "sensors in cars and on the roads monitor the build-up of congestions and wirelessly send this information to a central traffic control system, which automatically imposes variable speed limits that smooth the flow of traffic," Ofcom said. "This system could also communicate directly with cars, directing them along diverted routes to avoid the congestion and even managing their speed."

Initial plans for the A14 aren't focused on these borderline zealous goals just yet. Instead, the project aims to gather information on the cars that use the A14, before focusing on heavy goods vehicles, feeding back to a database that the government's Department for Transport will be able to access. As The Guardian notes, the project would offer a cheaper method for data connectivity and gathering traffic information compared to the mobile network techniques used by companies like TomTom. Instead of connecting to pricey mobile masts, the project will tap into small base stations attached to street lamps or BT exchanges, many of which already exist along the hectic A-road.

(Image credit: Martin Pettitt, Flickr)