Virtual Variable Message Signs

23 May 2023
Image of a toll bridge through a car windscreen.
This was a DfT-funded connected vehicle project to evaluate the practicalities of providing information normally delivered via roadside signage, instead directly to vehicles. This project is a service provided by Amey to Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) under the Amey / OCC Smart Technology Framework Contract.

Problem statement

The project aim was to develop the UK approach to delivering roadside messages into the vehicle

Phase 1:

  • Evaluate current standards from traffic control systems and connected vehicle standards​
  • Develop a VVMS cloud hub and create data extracts ​

Phase 2:

  • Live trial extracting data from Bristol County Council (BCC) and OCC Urban Traffic Management Control (UTMC) systems​
  • Demonstration of the principles of delivering virtual messages​

Our approach

Working with Oxford County Council and Bristol City Council we evaluated the current Variable Message Sign (VMS) systems in use alongside a period of discussions with key authorities and companies across the UK so that we could develop a trial system to prove the concept and help towards setting the UK standards for VVMS delivery.

This project was delivered on behalf of the Department of Transport (DfT) assisting towards developing connected vehicle standards.

A trial system was developed using a Virtual VMS cloud hub and data extracts from Urban Traffic Management Control systems (UTMC), a live trial ensued that demonstrated the messages being set at key locations across Oxfordshire and Bristol, these messages were successfully and accurately displayed onto an App and into the integrated infotainment system within a vehicle. The project was delivered working with KL Systems, WhiteWillow Consulting and Eloy Ltd.   


We have successfully demonstrated the use of in-vehicle messaging that is effective and applicable on rural, urban and inter-urban (strategic) road networks. Although some (but not significant) further research and development is required to reach the point where such a solution can be publicly deployed, we have shown:

  1. Virtual VMS can successfully and accurately replicate the settings on existing signage. We have also defined a standard for the export of existing VMS settings for the purpose of virtual signage that meets international standards; this demonstrates effective use of the legacy control systems in use by transport authorities today
  2. Pure virtual VMS can be implemented to provide information where no physical VMS currently exist. This has many potential benefits including long term cost savings as new physical VMS deployments are not required and being able to notify drivers of incidents in any location, related to the incident rather than the physical limitations of sign placement.
  3. The approach is broadly accessible and inclusive; it works using legacy smart phones and can also be integrated into the infotainment systems of newer cars (eg via Android Auto, Apple Carplay), provides both visual and voice announcement, and works for other modes (eg cycling)

Project Team

We worked with KL Systems, WhiteWillow Consulting and Eloy Ltd. who collectively have developed proof of concept applications for this project. The Amey Consulting IM team delivered technical lead, oversight, and project management to successfully deliver on the outcomes of the project.