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Digital Roads of the Future


The key automation and robotics “challenges” are outlined below. 

Safety feedback for autonomous and semi-autonomous heavy machinery usage

Operating heavy machinery is stressful and hazardous to operators, even if the machine is semi-automated. Detection and prevention of hazardous situations are challenging when multiple agents are operating within the same area combined with the uncertainty of human operation. The challenge of this topic is to develop models for these systems and design appropriate sensing technologies that can capture potential hazards and safely react to them. This investigation includes preliminary lab testing of technological components, prototyping of experimental platforms, and on-site user testing.

Industry Sponsor: BAM Nutall

Control of multi-agent systems for traffic Management

With the imminent rise of autonomous cars on our highways, new challenges and opportunities are arising for traffic management and maintenance of road infrastructure. This project will investigate the modelling and control of multi-agent systems with partial controllability. The control problems will range from optimal traffic routing, adaptation to traffic blocks, optimal strategies for increasing pavement lifespan, etc. Simulation models will be developed to investigate various control strategies and scenarios. Reinforcement learning will be used to generate the optimal control policies.

Industry Sponsor: Balfour Beatty

Robotic and automated road pavement resurfacing.

How can road resurfacing activities be automated and robotised at a commercially viable cost without compromising safety during construction and quality, durability and reliability of the finished road. What underlying conditions (eg data, digital twin models and environmental conditions) are needed to enable such automations. How can road planers, sweepers, pavers and rollers be connected to work seamlessly and autonomously in a continuous flow to maximise productivity. How would other manually operated supporting and enabling activities eg material haulage, deliveries, ironworks, etc be coordinated to work harmoniously alongside the automated activities. How can the plant and equipment be made flexible to operate on different road types and widths?

Industry Sponsor: Ringway

Contact for Automation and Robotics Theme

Potential applicants should contact the automation and robotics theme lead, Professor Fumiya Iida (, for any queries regarding these challenges.

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