The humble road stud markers, invented in 1934, is to undergo a major high-tech overhaul. First introduced on Britain's roads by Jim Callaghan in 1947 when he was a junior transport minister, the road stud markers is to become an "intelligent road stud" that will do a lot more than just help motorists follow the road at night.
The Highways Agency is looking at new, sophisticated designs that will provide its control centres and drivers with far more information than in the past. Tests have been done at Saltash in Cornwall, while Transport Scotland has installed the road stud markers on a 1.8-mile stretch of the M8 near Glasgow. The road stud markers get brighter as visibility worsens and can be made to flash at the flick of a switch. They can alert drivers to ice by turning blue when the road temperature drops below freezing and warn them of delays ahead by being switched to red or flashing amber.
The test road stud markers on the M8 are connected to the national grid, but trials of solar road stud markers, which are not as bright, have been taking place in other areas, including Peterborough and the Vale of Glamorgan. This year the Highways Agency will also examine how the road stud markers can be used to send information about traffic flow back to a control centre. One possible use could be to monitor cars as part of a "pay as you drive" road pricing scheme, which the Government is backing to help relieve road congestion.