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Network Reliability Chapter News - August 2016


 Summit to seek national co-ordination for roll-out of autonomous vehicles  

Roads Australia is standing front and centre in the national policy debate around connected and autonomous vehicles, co-convening with Austroads and Queensland Transport and Main Roads a national leaders summit in Brisbane this week.

The by-invitation Summit takes place in Brisbane tomorrow, August 23, with the aim of briefing Australia’s local, state and federal policy makers on the scope and impacts of the automated and driverless future and encouraging national co-ordination and policy and regulatory alignment in the near future.

The Summit will hear from leaders at state and federal agencies, key national bodies, leading economic institutes and invite detailed discussion among attendees.

The intent is to offer strong incentives for national co-ordination by:

  • challenging our assumptions about public transport;
  • challenging our assumptions about cities
  • challenging our assumptions about who manages the transport network
  • capturing our readiness to manage the roll out; and
  • creating a sense of urgency.

“We want to build consensus and understanding among key stakeholders on the direction Australia should take to protect the public interest, and to capture best value for the Australian economy, during and after the transition to an automated and driverless future,” says RA Chief Executive, Ian Webb.

In addition to co-hosting this week’s Summit, RA is also an active supporter and participant in ADVI - the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative - an ARRB-led forum of private and public sector players focused on ensuring Australia’s readiness for self-driving vehicles.

Ian Webb will also be speaking on the subject of autonomous vehicles, from a road safety perspective, at the Australian Road Safety Conference in Canberra next month.

Roads Australia has prepared a discussion paper to inform the national Summit.  Download the paper here.


Legal legwork still has to be done before autonomous vehicles hit the road

Ahead of this week’s national Summit, RA co-hosted with Clayton Utz a smaller workshop in Sydney on August 2 to focus squarely on the legal and liability issues around the use of autonomous vehicles on our roads.    

The workshop included presentations by the National Transport Commission (NTC) and Caterpillar and Fortescue Metals Group - the latter two talking about how they have dealt with the legal and practical ramifications of using automated dump trucks at the Solomon Mine site in WA.

The overwhelming safety benefits at Solomon Mine show the real potential of automated vehicles to save lives and reduce serious injuries, at the same time demonstrating that engineering human error out of driving and maximising the capacity of existing road networks offers real hope in tackling urban congestion.

However, it is also clear that the availability, speed and bandwidth of communication networks will be a fundamental enabler for automated vehicles.

This month's workshop also highlighted the vital role of the NTC in producing a safety assurance framework and gateway process to manage automated and driverless vehicle technology on our roads.

Clayton Utz has also just published a new report report calling on Australian governments to act now to establish a proper legal and regulatory framework for a future road transport environment of driverless vehicles.   Download Driving into the future: Regulating driverless vehicles in Australia here.


RA to play a role in ITS World Congress  

Roads Australia will be hosting a session at the 23rd World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems, to be held in Melbourne from October 10 to 14.  

The RA session at 11am on October 12 will build on the discussion and outcomes from our August national policy summit (see the story above), focusing on national co-ordination around the deployment and management of automated vehicles   

Hosted by ITS Australia, the 23rd ITS World Congress will bring together 7,000 global ITS professionals for a comprehensive program with hundreds of speakers, an exhibition, equipment demonstrations and technical tours.  

In recognition of Melbourne’s reputation as the world’s most liveable city, the 2016 Congress theme is “ITS – Enhancing Liveable Cities and Communities”.  

For all information on the ITS World Congress, including how to register, go to the website.


MRWA tackling congestion with co-ordinated strategy  

RA members in Perth recently had a unique opportunity to hear from the man steering Main Roads WA’s delivery of a world-class, customer-centric road network.

Tony Earl, Executive Director of the newly formed Network Operations Directorate, is charged with addressing Perth’s congestion challenge. Tony is a former Head of Network Performance at Transport for London, where he was responsible for the operational performance for over 6000 traffic signals, as well as turning around a long term deterioration in Journey Time Reliability across London’s 23 major corridors.  He was also the operational lead for developing the real time traffic management strategy to support the London Congestion Charge implementation, and the senior responsible officer for Games time readiness for the 2012 London Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Speaking at the recent farewell lunch for MRWA Managing Director, Steve Troughton, Tony stressed that there was ‘no silver bullet’ to Perth’s congestion and road management challenges, instead pointing to a range of co-ordinated measures aimed at improving customer perceptions by delivering aggregated marginal gains.

These measures included providing additional lanes, CCTV expansion, dedicated exit lanes, flashing yellow to turning traffic, intersection upgrades, pedestrian countdown timers, new freeway and highway merge lines, a right turn filtering trial, variable message sign expansion and a traffic signal timing improvement project.

Tony said MRWA’s performance management strategy involved baselining existing operations, setting targets, and aligning investment and operational focus to close the gap.

The customer has a central role in this strategic approach. MRWA uses annual community perception surveys to gauge road users’ attitudes and priorities. This information then feeds into strategic planning and day to day operational management.

One of the focus areas for continual improvement is around the use of people and technology. As an example, Main Roads has segmented its metropolitan network into ‘bite size’ pieces to encourage more effective, accountable and responsive management.

The key, said Tony, was learning and applying best practice across MRWA’s operations – ‘thinking differently about how we increase the efficiency, reliability and the productivity of our road-based transport system to give better outcomes for our customers’.  


Victorians want the right mix on roads: VicRoads

Victorians believe that a mix of transport solutions is the answer to the state’s growing population and increasing congestion, according to a VicRoads survey of its customers.

VicRoads Chief Executive, John Merritt said the recently released survey results of 2,300 Victorian road users found that while cars were viewed as the most convenient way of getting around, public transport and cycling were increasingly important for the state’s future.

“Only 16 per cent of people felt new roads were the answer when asked if it was important to build new roads or increase capacity on existing roads,” he said.

“That’s compared to around half who agreed it was more important to focus on making the existing road network more efficient.

“Our priority is to get the greatest number of people through Melbourne’s road network in the safest and most efficient way possible, helping them to get wherever they need to go.”

The survey found young people aged 18-29 years are significantly more likely to walk or cycle and use public transport, with a third of Victorians more likely to walk if it was safer and easier to cross main roads.

Mr Merritt said on average, people were prepared to walk for 19 minutes and cycle for 23 minutes to get to where they need to before they turn to their cars or public transport.

“This is really encouraging because we want more people to walk, cycle and use public transport more frequently,” he said.

“We are experiencing a growing population, particularly in Melbourne, and we have to be smarter about the roads we already have so that we can move people around more efficiently.

“We know the answer to congestion isn’t to simply build more roads; it’s about making a range of transport options attractive to Victorians; driving, cycling, walking and public transport via trams, buses and rail,” he said.

Other key findings of the survey, completed last year, include:

  • More than half of Victorians list convenience as their top priority when choosing their mode of transport.
  • While most people use a car on arterial roads the second most common form of transport is walking (54 per cent), followed by tram (34 per cent).
  • 82 per cent of people were satisfied with arterial roads across all areas of the state while 47 per cent of people expressed concern at congestion.
  • More than 40 per cent of people who live within 3 kilometres of their local services in Melbourne or regional centres say they would be encouraged to cycle if more on-road and off-road safe cycle paths or bike lanes were provided.
  • 64 per cent of respondents were satisfied with public transport, with dissatisfaction due to unreliability and cancellations, overcrowding, infrequent services/timetables and danger. 


New NTC work program to tackle Australia’s biggest emerging transport challenges

The NTC last month released a new work program that includes strategic projects in areas such as automated vehicles and road user charging.  

Chief Executive of the National Transport Commission Paul Retter, says the work program reflects the need for the NTC to undertake bolder, more strategic reforms to ready Australia’s transport networks for the future.

The program includes:

  • preparing for automated vehicles
  • developing a framework to guide future productivity improvements
  • developing options to improve the mechanisms and processes for setting and collecting road user charge
  • filling information gaps to provide evidence as a basis for future reforms, and
  • examining ways that the regulatory landscape will need to change in the lead up to 2040.

“Strategic analysis work like Land Transport Regulation 2040 is one way we will develop a larger evidence base for the longer-term reforms we will need for the future,” Mr Retter said.

“It will help us identify plausible scenarios and start the process of developing policy and regulatory responses to the challenges we are likely to face in the future.”

As well as these strategic projects, NTC’s work program includes a small number of operational policy projects, as well as ongoing maintenance work on national laws, model laws and administrative guidelines.

In the future, operational policy work will be increasingly undertaken by the national heavy vehicle and rail safety regulators, as recommended in the outcomes of the 2015 NTC Review.

The NTC’s 2016-2020 Work Program has been endorsed by Transport and Infrastructure Council ministers. Roads Australia has been working closely with the NTC to contribute to the strategic work program, principally on land transport regulation 2040 investigating plausible future transport scenarios, transport productivity and the who moves what where discussion paper.  


World-first technology keeps traffic moving on the M80

Drivers on Melbourne’s M80 will be the first in the world to benefit from new technology aimed at reducing congestion.

The Adaptive Variable Speed Limit system recognises when traffic is starting to build-up and adjusts traffic speed, regulating the traffic flow.

Following a manual trial in 2014, the system has now been fully automated on the M80 Ring Road between Furlong Road and Sunshine Avenue to relieve a pinch-point where traffic merges from four lanes to two.

The ground-breaking system is the result of collaboration between VicRoads and the Technical University of Crete. Powered by an algorithm, it assesses live traffic conditions and regulates traffic speed by sending information to drivers via overhead gantries.

The new technology will also form part of the upcoming construction of the $300 million M80 Ring Road Upgrade from Sunshine Avenue to Calder Freeway, due to start later this year.

Drivers can expect to see speed limits change before traffic become heavy, particularly during morning and afternoon peak times.

The Government says traffic data from the new system will be closely monitored and evaluated, with a view to rolling the system out more broadly across the State’s freeway network.

The Victorian Government has also recently commenced an Australian-first technology trial that will see speeds on the Monash Freeway move up and down based on live traffic conditions.

The Dynamic Speed Trial – running between High Street in Ashburton and Glenferrie Road in Toorak – means motorists, when it is safe to do so, will be able to increase their speed from 80 km/hour to 100km/hour on this section of the Monash.

The innovative approach will use the existing technology including CCTV and road sensors as well as overhead electronic signs to change speed limits when conditions allow, not just if there are road works or a collision.

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