New research project aims to make the UK a global leader in digital roads technology | Cambridge Network
Cambridge engineers will explore how Digital Twins, smart materials, data science and robotic monitoring can work together to develop a connected physical and digital road infrastructure system.
The business-led £8.6 million research project, announced in support of the government’s UK Innovation Strategy, is one of eight Prosperity Partnerships being supported with an investment of almost £60 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), businesses and universities.
Dr Ioannis Brilakis, Laing O’Rourke Reader in Construction Engineering at the University of Cambridge, will lead the project titled Digital Roads, which aims to improve the cost, time, quality, safety, sustainability, and resilience performance of expressways. Co-investigators Dr Fumiya Iida, Professor Abir Al-Tabbaa and Professor Mark Girolami will join him. The Cambridge engineers will work in partnership with Highways England and construction and engineering company Costain.
The vision is to deliver roads made out of smart materials that can measure and monitor their own performance over time. The researchers will use graphene infused concrete coatings to enable self-sensing on both the road surface and the median barrier, informing the road’s Digital Twin through robotic monitoring. These self-sensing and self-healing materials, along with a wide range of measured data, will inform the data-science enabled digital processes, resulting in making better design, construction, maintenance, and operation predictions. This will make roads considerably less expensive, more reliable, and safer, allowing highways agencies and councils to identify when repair work is needed.