When you think about a combination of robotics, cars and the road network, we’re pretty sure that you’ll probably think about autonomous cars and their future integration into the world. It turns out that, before all of those autonomous cars, there might be some other robotics out there on the road with you – robotic traffic cones.
The brand new prototypes have been created by construction company Costain and wear the name ‘robo-cones’. The main aim behind them is to reduce the risks taken by the teams working on the roads whilst they prepare for upcoming roadworks.
Laying out traffic cones is considered the most dangerous part of roadwork preparations; with the initial angled start to the lane closure (otherwise known as the ‘taper’) being labelled as the most treacherous part.
In order to minimise the danger during cone placing, large parts of carriageways are often closed off – allowing safer cone laying but also, in some cases, causing long delays for road users.
The new robo-cones look to change all of this; ultimately benefitting the workers and removing delays for road users. Sitting dormant next to a road when not in use, the cones can be easily positioned at speeds of up to 4mph at the touch of a button. This means that, rather than closing long stretches of road for an extended period, small crews of workers could close off a shorter piece of road faster.
When presenting the new robo-cone prototype at the Cheltenham Science Festival, Costain’s Richard Gollege told Autoexpress:
“It takes 15 minutes to do a taper, but with the remote controlled cones it’ll take less than a minute”
One key thing to take from that quote is the fact that the cones are currently ‘remote controlled’. Unfortunately, Costain have said that they are a long way from building autonomous robo-cones but say that they’re working on it as “they would be perfect”. That just means that, for now, road crews would need to drive the cones into place; that said shortening the setup time by 14 minutes is still a big improvement.
Aside from safer working conditions for the roadwork crews, the biggest benefit for us normal road users would be that we wouldn’t have to drive through mile after mile of coned road that isn’t actually being worked on (is there anything worse?). Instead, the cones would sit neatly against the side of the road awaiting their call to action.
Images from Pexels