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Robot traffic cones could ease roadwork snarls

By David Bonnici, 08 Jun 2018 Car News

Robot traffic cones could ease roadwork snarls

A UK company is developing witches’ hats that can be remotely moved on and off the road to close off lanes only when needed

How many times have you been slowed up by a lane closure only to see a row of traffic cones, but no actual road works?

UK firm Costain might have the answer to ghost roadworks, with ‘robo-cones’ that move out from the side of the road at the touch of a button, closing off lanes only when needed.

As well as easing congestion the robo-cones will improve worker safety.

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Closing lanes with witches’ hats is risky, particularly on freeways, so workers often shut off large sections of road at a time to avoid repeatedly having to brave the traffic to lay them.With robo-cones they can safely lay the line at the side of road and remotely move them into position, at speeds up to 7km/h, when and where required.

The most dangerous part of setting up a row of traffic cones is the ‘taper’ – the angled start of the line that begins at the edge of a lane and moves out to close it completely.

On big road projects this is done with a worker standing on the back of a truck and carefully laying the cones while exposed to other moving vehicles.

traffic cones

"It takes 15 minutes to do a taper, but with the remote controlled cones it will take less than a minute,” said Costain’s Richard Gollege.

Gollege’s colleague, William Clifford, stressed the cones are placed by remote control and aren’t autonomous, conceding “we are far from that” – we're thinking autonomous cones would also be handy with a homing mechanism so they can find their way back to roadside from a sharehouse living room after a big night at the pub.

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According to Clifford, the main motivation behind the robo-cones’ invention was to prevent injury or death of road workers.

“But [it] is also important to cut down the amount of time lanes are coned off to make it better for the motorist,” he added.