Skip to main content

Latest news & events

Revolutionising Highways: How AI is Transforming the UK's Transportation Industry

In the first in a series of two blogs on artificial intelligence and its potential for place, Colas Ltd's Vishnu Kalia provides an overview following ADEPT's Autumn conference session led by Colas. 

As a new entrant in the industry, I am fascinated by the transformative power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and its potential to revolutionise transportation infrastructure. Attending the ADEPT Autumn Conference back in November, I had the opportunity to witness first-hand the shared excitement and enthusiasm surrounding AI and its applications in our field.

During the conference many of the speakers referenced AI as future solutions. Colas Ltd had the opportunity to expand the conversations and invited three SMEs and an academic to present some specific solutions and engage in discussions about the current buzz and noise surrounding AI. At the conference I noted that many industry professionals were actively exploring AI solutions, for example to enhance safety and productivity in their operations and project management, but others are still sitting on the fence. 

Perceptions and challenges

The pace of AI development naturally creates mixed feelings - excitement at new opportunities for productivity, creativity and engagement (and much more), alongside caution in the face of growing uncertainty, increasingly complex ethical dilemmas and disruptive labour market impacts. However, it’s important to remember that AI is a tool, and its impact hinges on how we choose to wield it.

There is a strong opportunity for technology solutions to deliver benefits in ways of working between local authorities and large engineering contractors. As we begin to explore options for AI, we must acknowledge that it is not without challenges in our industry. Like many other sectors, there is a certain level of scepticism and apprehension. Concerns about safety and reliability, as well as fears of job displacement due to automation, are prevalent among industry insiders and the public alike. It is crucial for us to address these concerns and explore objectively the value and potential benefits that AI can bring.

Adoption hurdles do pose a challenge. Upgrading infrastructure, establishing regulatory frameworks and ensuring technological readiness are all necessary steps for successful implementation. Moreover, issues related to data privacy, security and standardisation need to be carefully addressed to build trust and confidence in AI-driven solutions. 

UK’s AI summit and Bletchley

The recent artificial intelligence (AI) summit held in the UK has been hailed as a diplomatic breakthrough. The summit resulted in an international declaration to address risks and a multilateral agreement to test advanced AI models. The event was attended by global leaders, tech executives, academics, and civil society figures, including Elon Musk. The US demonstrated its power in the field, with President Biden issuing an executive order and Vice President Harris announcing an AI safety institute. 

While the existential risks of AI remain divisive, there is consensus on the immediate concern of disinformation. Countries are moving at different speeds in regulation, but international summits like this are crucial to define the problem and establish scientific consensus.

Industry’s adoption journey:

Yet, despite these challenges, I am encouraged by the progress that the UK ‘place’ sector has made in embracing AI-driven technologies. Intelligent traffic management systems, powered by AI algorithms have already proven to reduce commute times and enhance road safety. The development and integration of autonomous vehicles into our transportation network also holds promise. 

As the technology continues to advance, we are witnessing an evolution of use cases. Smart roadways equipped with sensors to monitor real-time traffic, weather conditions and pavement quality are becoming the norm, creating adaptive and responsive infrastructure. Additionally, the integration of AI in managing toll systems and the emergence of AI-enabled electric vehicle charging networks contribute to our broader sustainability goals.

In this landscape of innovation, companies like Hexaly are playing a pivotal role. Hexaly showcased their optimisation platform that boasts the world's fastest solver for routing, scheduling and packing etc, at the ADEPT conference. Tailored for developers, it expedites the creation of optimisation applications, while offering consulting and prototyping services. This exemplifies how cutting-edge technologies are not only enhancing transportation efficiency but also facilitating the development and implementation of advanced solutions to address complex challenges within the ‘place’ sector.

Changing tides

Perceptions seem to be gradually shifting as AI implementations demonstrate their efficacy. For example, at the ADEPT conference, UBY's presentation showcased advanced tools for construction project management, featuring their Control Worksite Progress platform. This innovative application offers real-time insights by cross-referencing financial data with on-site information. Additionally, FYLD demonstrated the power of AI with their app for civil engineers, focusing on minimising environmental impact and enhancing on-site safety. FYLD simplifies risk assessment by transforming data into real-time video reports shared instantly with managers.

Increased exposure to AI-driven technologies in our daily lives such as speech recognition, machine learning, predictive analytics and deep learning, etc, coupled with success stories like FYLD and UBY, fosters greater acceptance and trust among the public. Despite concerns surrounding negative aspects such as deep fakes and other potential risks, the opportunity to embrace and seek to understand this technology further is exciting. Rather than waiting to see what happens to these issues, let's educate ourselves and actively address the challenges associated with AI. By doing so, we can fully harness its potential while minimizing any negative consequences.

Looking ahead, I am excited to be part of an industry that is poised for further transformation. Continued advancements in AI algorithms, combined with ongoing infrastructure upgrades and collaborative efforts between industry stakeholders and policymakers will drive widespread adoption. Our focus will shift towards creating more integrated, intelligent and sustainable places that benefit everyone.


In conclusion, the future of AI in the highways industry and across ‘place’ is bright. While some persuasion may still be needed to address concerns and scepticism, there is growing acceptance and recognition of the benefits AI can bring. It is important to be both careful and daring at the same time, addressing concerns while pushing the boundaries. By doing so, we can shape a safer, more efficient future.


Vishnu Kalia - Client and Marketing Associate, Colas Ltd

Further information

The companies contributing to the Colas workshop on AI were: 

Rupert Lorraine, Director of The Arts Institute, University of Plymouth

Joshua Wood, Director - Water Sector, Fyld

Stuart Fawcett, UK Sales Director, UBY Group

Thomas Rollin, Data, AI and Innovation Lead, Colas Digital Solutions

Image by Hitesh Choudhary on Unsplash

Media enquiries: please contact Coast Communications 01579 352600 | VAT number: 337 0556 05 | Website by Cosmic