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Stopped Vehicle technology on Smart Motorways

Posted on 04/05/22 |

Statement provided by National Highways

What's happening

We're upgrading motorways across the country with technology which detects stopped vehicles.  Every motorway where the hard shoulder has been permanently converted to a live traffic lane will have the new radar-based technology by the end of September 2022.

This new stopped vehicle detection will enhance the existing systems that work together to help drivers feel safe and be safer on motorways without a hard shoulder.  Already motorways have a system called MIDAS (Motorway Incident Detection and Automatic Signalling) which uses sensors to monitor traffic volumes and automatically set signs and signals as the motorway becomes more congested.  Our upgraded motorways also include technology, Red X signs which close lanes to other traffic when a stopped vehicle is identified, emergency areas that are set back from the road for drivers to pull into, and signs and signals which can alert drivers to hazards and change the speed limit, if necessary.

How it works

We will install new radar units at the side of the road to monitor the motorway in both directions, detecting vehicles that have stopped.

The advantage of this new system is it is specifically designed to detect a stationary vehicle, typically in 20 seconds, and alert a control room operator who can see the incident on camera, close lanes and dispatch a National Highways traffic officer to attend to the stopped vehicle.

Using stopped vehicle detection means that there is a significant reduction in time taken for the control room operators to be notified of problems, to verify the presence of stationary vehicles and get help deployed more quickly.

Ed; National Highways claim the new technology will detect stopped vehicles 21 times faster than the previous average of seven minutes. They will be used as well as the existing signage, CCTV and sensors which monitor traffic volumes and detect congestion.

They also added: “One of our operators then, typically within two minutes, will find you on the CCTV cameras, will understand which lane you are in and whether you are still there and if you are stranded, they will then update the signs from ‘reported obstruction’ to something that’s compelling drivers to do something different like a red ‘X’ telling drivers to get out of the lane, or signs telling people to reduce their speed.”

Ed Ed Ed!!; So let put this into perspective.  In that 20 seconds a vehicle travelling at 70mph will have covered 4/10ths of a mile.  In a minute just over a mile, in two minutes they take to find you a car has travelled 2 miles – and the gantries aren’t yet lit.  And drivers can’t see you from that distance.  It might be better – but its still not good enough to protect being hit at speed from behind.

I think it still needs a ‘must do better’ - my suggestion of only opening any hard shoulder in busy periods when traffic is flowing below 40mph still applies!!


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