Transurban takes express route to smart roads and driverless vehicles

Transurban takes express route to smart roads and driverless vehicles

Company's sensor rich roads keep congestion down and enable an autonomous future

For customers, the device rich roads have meant Transurban has been able to roll-out an app for drivers who don’t have an e-tag. LinktGO is a GPS-enabled mobile app that allows the 50 per cent of toll-road users who typically use Transurban roads fewer than four times a year to see their toll travel in real time and pay trip-by-trip using their smartphones, with no ongoing commitment.

The app, the company’s websites, its Adobe Experience Manager Content Management System, consumer mobile channels now reside within Amazon Web Services, linked by API gateways, part of Transurban’s cloud-first strategy which is increasingly incorporating operational data like workloads from its legacy tolling platform as well.

“It ramped up really quickly,” Naiker says. “Now there has to be a reason why we wouldn’t put a workload in the cloud.”

The cloud move also helps remove some of the risk around building new roads, Dean adds.

"You can actually spin up the technology that supports that road very simply, by literally pushing a button and spinning up a new instance in AWS, versus having to buy all the kit, install all the software, get it all configured, get a data room," he says. "Because usually the technology always comes after the road, that's always a nervous moment – can you actually toll? – and this allows you to do a lot of that ahead of time. It's a huge risk reduction."

Information highway

Real-time speed, volume, vehicle occupancy, travel time, video, tag, weight in motion, GPS, driver mobile and weather data is crunched by Transurban’s in-house, 35-strong traffic modelling team to keep journey times to a minimum on the company’s roads. In response they can change speed restrictions, reverse lane direction and issue queue warnings to help ease traffic build up.

Artist's impression of the proposed bridge over Maribyrnong River in Melbourne
Artist's impression of the proposed bridge over Maribyrnong River in Melbourne

Such systems installed on Melbourne’s CityLink as part of the Monash Freeway Upgrade have seen average speeds increase by 40 per cent at peak times, the company says, allowing for 20 per cent more cars to travel in each lane.

There is a safety benefit too. The serious injury rate per 100 million vehicle km travelled on Transurban’s roads is estimated to be up to 80 per cent below comparable state averages on the broader network, according to the company’s own calculations.

On construction projects, the real-time data and additional sources like land use, employment drivers, customer behaviour, socio-demographic breakdowns and mode-share patterns are used to “understand network friction points and determine the optimal time to deploy capital” in other words, which construction should be done first to best avoid delays.

The rise of driverless and semi-autonomous vehicles, presents even more opportunity for data collection and exchange, Dean says. Transurban has established itself as a lead in local trials.

In August last year the company and the Victorian Government began a two-year trial of how automated vehicles interact with road infrastructure on the Monash-CityLink-Tullamarine corridor. The first phase of the trial, which featured connected and automated vehicles from BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and Volvo tested how car features like lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition respond to tunnels, road works, electronic speed signs and congestion.

In the US the company is about to pilot an app which locates where workers are on a stretch of road.

“At some point you can feed that into the autonomous car,” Dean says. “So I can tell your car there's a worker over the next hill, which will allow the car to move lanes sooner which is good for safety. It's also good for traffic because as you know if we all move over at the very end we bottleneck.

“The road infrastructure and bandwidth means we can share data with the [autonomous] cars, with the hope that the car will then share data with us as its progressing down the road,” Dean says.

Potentially, Dean adds, there could be special lanes for electric vehicles to charge along the highway.

“There’s a lot of opportunity there,” he says.

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