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Poorly maintained road markings and traffic signs could hamper the introduction of driverless cars on the UK’s road network. 

That’s the view of the Road Safety Markings Association (RSMA) following a government announcement that it has given the green light for driverless cars to take to UK roads from January 2015.

The RSMA points out that driverless cars, which are guided by a system of sensors and cameras, could be hampered by the daily routine of roadworks, potholes, worn road markings, burst mains and failed traffic lights.

National director George Lee said: By 2025, at least half the travel on Europe’s roads will be in vehicles that can read the road ahead including markings and signs. But vehicles, like drivers, cannot function if basic road markings and signs are non-existent, non-compliant, worn out, obscured, inconsistent or confusing.

In spite of the best efforts of local authorities and utility companies, roadworks are frequently chaotic, and difficult to negotiate for even the most experienced driver.

We know from our own extensive survey of the UK’s local and national road network that half of markings need replacing immediately or scheduled for replacing.

Poor maintenance and worn and inconsistent road markings and traffic signs are now a major obstacle to the effective use of technology in vehicles, such as lane departure warning and traffic sign recognition.

The prospect of self-driving cars is exciting; the reality of cars that can read roads is already with us, but it would be a huge step forward if we could have roads that can be read easily by humans “ who still account for the vast majority of road users.