Smart Transport Infrastructure Award

Project: M4 Smart Motorway (M4SM) Project – Simulation-Based Support for Smart Motorway Infrastructure

In collaboration with Johnson Controls International (JCI) and Transport for New South Wales (TfNSW), the team used live traffic data feeding analytics and transport modelling to deliver a real-time transport management decision support system; this system guides control room operators to the best course of action to minimise congestion using the tools at their disposal. It predicts traffic status over the next hour, and, when congestion is predicted, analyses the most appropriate mitigation strategy to clear traffic jams before they even form.

 

Impact and sustainability:

Like a weather forecast helps you decide if you need an umbrella, this system helps traffic managers know if there is about to be a traffic jam they need to avert. It also assesses mitigation strategies proposed by the JCI Meridian ITS, such as speed limit changes, lane closures, VMS messages or radio alerts, to help decide the best option to minimise congestion (anticipative) on the M4 and surrounding network.  Without this, even if these management tools were available, they could only be used once the jam was already there (reactive), negatively affecting air quality and the economy.

 

Durability:

As more data sources become available, these can be fed into the model to enhance the forecasts.  Similarly, as new data sources replace legacy systems being switched off, the model continues to deliver its predictions for the M4 Smart Motorway.  As the model runs, it learns from the real-time data inputs to constantly calibrate its predictions. When air quality monitoring data becomes available, it can even be programmed to manage traffic in real time to reduce build-up in areas with dangerous pollution levels to divert traffic to quieter, cleaner areas where emissions are not so dangerous.

Transferability:  

The system can be used wherever there is real-time traffic data and ITS traffic management tools. Once a model of the area is set up, it works 24/7, predicting traffic 15, 30, 45 and 60 minutes into the future helping traffic managers mitigate against congestion before it builds up, and constantly updating its predictions and highlighting the best mitigation strategy. This solution works without any roadside infrastructure changes and is therefore easily transferrable to any other location. This solution is also being operationalised in the Victoria Road area of Sydney and multiple other locations around Australia (Perth, Brisbane) and the world.

 

Innovation:

Transport modelling and traffic management solutions have both been around for a long time. This solution fuses the two of them into an innovative and effective real-time solution. Originally traffic managers defined signal timings and schedule-based lane management relying solely on historical data, they have since been able to update these devices in real time, anticipating predicted traffic build-up.  This takes the technology to the next level by using accurate analytics and modelling algorithms to predict the short-term traffic status in an area and allow traffic managers to proactively mitigate congestion.

 

Proven benefits in the marketplace:

The data feeds into the TMC’s traffic management solution by JCI (Meridian) for traffic controllers to compare responses to make the best mitigation strategy decision.  Because this solution is part of a suite of the M4 Smart Motorway upgrade, it is impossible to compare before-and-after to accurately specify the reduction in congestion solely down to this solution.  However, it stands to reason the ability to react to traffic jams before they happen helps reduce delays.  In Oxfordshire, England, a similar solution has reduced emissions by up to 14%, whilst on the I-15 San Diego (USA) corridor delays are down 3.3%.

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