Sat-nav maps update aims to prevent stuck lorries
A multi-million pound sat-nav project aims to stop lorries and other vehicles getting stuck in narrow lanes and under low-lying bridges on UK routes.
Ordnance Survey is creating a database that will contain information about 200,000 miles (321,869km) of roadways to prevent such accidents.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said the digital facility would launch before the end of the year.
But sat-nav makers will need to pay to get access to the full data.
"The new database will provide the sat-nav manufacturers with the ability to make journeys for HGV [heavy goods vehicle] drivers safer and more cost-efficient and that's a big issue for us," Richard Burnett, the chief executive of the Road Haulage Association, told the BBC.
"However, the new technology can only be considered a real success if each of the sat-nav providers sign up to the new system."
Details of the effort were first reported by The Times.
The National Digital Road Map database will include information about:
- Road widths
- Weight restrictions
- Bridge heights
- Restrictions on left or right turns at junctions
It will be offered as a commercial product by Ordnance Survey to cover its running costs. There will also be a free-to-use version, but it will strip out the information that might prevent lorry accidents.
Ordnance Survey says about 80% of sat-nav makers, including Garmin, already subscribe to some of its other data, for which it charges less than 1p per device.
The Department for Transport has also contributed £3m of taxpayers' money to the effort.
"The definitive data, which also includes information on speed limits and planned road maintenance, delivers a product which will enable more efficient routing for all road users, including HGVs [heavy goods vehicles]," Robert Andrews, a spokesman for Ordnance Survey, told the BBC.
"[It] will result in high-quality data being supplied to satellite navigation companies.
"We are confident that the product will deliver customer data needs in one central location, allowing more informed and confident decision-making."
He added that the plan was to start offering access to the database from 16 November, to coincide with a Highways UK event in Birmingham.
"We welcome this move [and] hopefully this will lay the foundations for potential future advancements in vehicle technology," commented Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.
Road signs already warn motorists about potential problems.
But the widespread use of sat-nav screens and smartphone map apps has meant they are often ignored.
Many lorries on UK roads are also driven by overseas-based drivers who may misinterpret the signs.
The scheme will rely on local authorities to help keep the database up-to-date.
The Local Government Association welcomed the development but called for additional action.
"Councils are keen to play their part but need the powers to fine lorry drivers who ignore weight restrictions and blight rural communities," said a spokesman.
Recent examples of the problem include:
- Train delays and a back-up of traffic when a lorry became trapped under a railway bridge over the A428 highway in Northamptonshire in May
- A lorry causing long tailbacks in Marlborough, Wiltshire when it got wedged against a house on a road leading into the market town in June
- The closure of the M20 motorway in Kent after a footbridge collapsed after being hit by a lorry carrying a digger in August