Readable roads

Readable roads

Posted by

Martin Brown

December 2013

Readable roadsWhat was the last book you read?

I have to admit I’m more of an occasional reader: when I’m on holiday I like the odd thriller while lazing by the poolside.

Otherwise it’s a diet of news digests on my phone and tablet, and the occasional football magazine. Oh, and The Economist. Of course. Naturally.

But there’s a good chance that if you’re an occasional reader like me, your car has done more reading than you.

No, true. More and more cars need to ‘read’ roads as the technology in them becomes more progressive. Have you noticed how your satnav can tell you the speed limit of the road on which your are travelling?

And how about lane assist? Lane assist provides warnings if you start to stray over the white lines on the motorway – perhaps signifying inattention or possible sleepiness – with a beep or pressure on the steering wheel to rectify the direction of travel.

To do this, the car is literally ‘reading’ the road ahead.

By 2025 half the cars on the roads will be able to read road signs and road markings.

But what if the metaphorical road pages are torn or missing? What then? How will the car ‘interpret’ correctly the ‘words’ on the road?

This is exactly the fear of the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP) – an international not for profit association dedicated to saving lives through safer roads.

In association with Euro NCAP, the crash test people, they’ve raised the question of illegible roads in a publication called ‘Roads that cars can read’.

By 2025 they reckon that half the cars on the roads will be able to read road signs and road markings. Which means that commonality – or readability – is required: so that means standard shapes, sizes and typography for signs.

And, simply, better roads. We have five star crash worthy cars – it’s about time we had the five star roads too.

Interestingly, when the London underground was built, each line had distinctive colours and each station distinctive patterns in its tiling. This wasn’t just decorative. It allowed much of the illiterate population of turn of the century London to ‘read’ where they were on the underground system by interpreting the signs correctly.

Cars now need the same level of ‘literacy’ with roads they can ‘read’. Which, in turn, will make for safer roads.


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