A future in which roads are ‘digitalised’ and can charge electric cars as they travel along them, has been outlined in a speech by roads minister John Hayes.

Speaking at a conference on 21st century infrastructure, he said the UK was at a turning point in the history of road building, with roads, bridges and tunnels joining the internet.

The minister said: “Wireless connection between vehicles and their environment is already allowing communication about hazards, weather and traffic flow.

“The A14 is Britain’s first internet-connected road. A string of sensors monitor traffic by communicating with mobile phones in moving vehicles, sending the information to a traffic control system which automatically smooths the flow of traffic.

“In the future, road surfaces will supply electric cars with inductive charging. In cold weather, heating elements will prevent roads from freezing.”

He said the use of self-healing materials and nanotechnology would help keep roads in good condition, and road structures would automatically alert engineers to developing faults, with robots deployed to inspect bridges and carry out maintenance.

He added that cars were already computerised, with the Jaguar XJ being supported by more than 100 million lines of electrical code, and said: “Now the roads themselves are about to be digitalised.”