Smart motorways

ITSReviewAnnual2015

Smart Motorways How did we get here? How smart are they? Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency or HA) has evolved from a road builder to an asset manager to a road network operator. This transformation has involved a shift of attention from outputs to outcomes, from construction and traffic management to the delivery of a managed service to customers. The smart motorway has developed from the early days of using technology to warn of hazards ahead, through the deployment of systems that automatically set signals in response to traffic conditions to the controlled motorway and active traffic management. 46 ITS REVIEW Annual Review 2015 The reliance on technology for operating a smart motorway remains a concern and consideration of fail-safe modes and default modes of operation remain fundamental to their design, operation and maintenance. This requires an overall system-led approach to be taken as safe and efficient operation relies on various, sometimes complex, interactions. Have the boundaries of smart motorways been reached? Potentially the weakest link is now the driver and so greater connectivity, assisted driving and the move to autonomous vehicles should enable motorways to become even smarter – where the outcomes are achieved through less reliance on infrastructure and systems provided by the Road Network Operator (RNO). Where did it all start? As motorways developed the need to provide various safety features emerged, with emergency telephones and a rudimentary warning system, ‘Motorwarn’ (where a passing Police patrol could activate a ‘wig-wag’ set of amber lanterns using a hand held remote control device) as the first generation. Next on the scene were matrix signals mounted on posts, generally in the central reserve, displaying speed restrictions and lane closures. The next significant step in using technology to improve safety was the MIDAS (Motorway Incident Detection and Automatic Signalling) system that combined traffic detectors with matrix signals to set speeds automatically in response to traffic conditions. As traffic volumes increased and the cost of widening – not just the financial cost, but environmental and social costs too – increased to a point where it was no longer sustainable, there was a need to do something different. That is when the Controlled Motorway appeared on the scene. Controlled Motorway The concept of the controlled motorway was developed from similar schemes in mainland Europe. The What next? Smart motorways are now a normal part of the English road network. They create additional capacity on already congested road networks through the use of operational regimes and a combination of infrastructure, technology and people. But how did we get here and what were the steps that made it possible? Is that it as far as making motorways ‘smart’ is concerned, or is there more to come? Ian Patey, Head of Profession – Intelligent Transport, Mouchel Ltd  Figure 1: Controlled Motorway


ITSReviewAnnual2015
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