Vehicle technology is advancing at a rapid pace and the prospect of self-driving cars is becoming a reality. Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) is a term to summarise a range of vehicle technologies that incorporate technology to actively communicate and respond to road infrastructure and other vehicles (connected), or have self-driving capabilities (autonomous).
As a toll road owner and operator, we believe that the introduction of CAVs represents a considerable opportunity in the global road operations industry. In the long term, the potential benefits of CAVs include:
While there are still significant technological, social and legal challenges before widespread CAV use can be expected, Transurban is actively engaged in research and advocacy of the possibilities of this technology for the transport industry and wider society.
In April 2016, we submitted a response to the New South Wales Staysafe Committee’s inquiry into driverless vehicles and the impact on road safety in New South Wales. Our response outlined our view that introducing CAVs presents many opportunities for our business and customers. We recommended that Staysafe consider:
We also highlighted our knowledge and experience in working with autonomous vehicles through our pilot projects in the USA, in partnership with VDOT, Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) and mapping specialist ‘HERE’.
We concluded by recommending that with CAVs now in the real-world testing phase, it is important for governments and industry to consider the legislation, regulatory frameworks, industry standards and codes of practice that need to be in place to support the safe testing of CAVs and the introduction of CAVs into the market.
Our submission to the Staysafe Committee can be viewed here.
Transurban partnered with VTTI and VDOT on an automated- and connected-vehicle road test on the 95 Express Lanes in FY16.
The 95 Express Lanes were among the first facilities in the USA to host a test demonstration for CAVs in real world conditions. In October 2015 and June 2016, we completed the trials as part of two initiatives known as Virginia Automated Corridors (VAC) and Virginia Connected Corridors (VCC).
To provide a safe, closed environment for demonstration, both trials took place during the mid-day closure and reversal of the I-395 HOV lanes and 95 Express Lanes allowing some of the latest CAV concepts to be showcased on an open roadway without disrupting operations for customers. The second of these trials featured Transurban Board members as passengers to experience first-hand the opportunities and challenges of this technology.
High-definition mapping capabilities, real-time traffic and incident information, intelligent routing and high-precision global navigation satellite systems were tested during the demonstration. Test vehicles encountered and reacted to test scenarios such as:
The autonomous vehicles performed well in many scenarios, but limitations with the technology were revealed in some situations, including failure to detect some obstacles which resulted in the driver having to intervene. Through our partnership with VTTI, we will continue to explore the practical application of emerging technologies and how they can best be used to improve safety, customer experience on our roadways, and road utilisation efficiency.
A video of the October 2015 trial can be seen below.
At Transurban’s 2016 Investor Day, we provided a 360° virtual reality video simulating how an autonomous vehicle might travel on CityLink and what the software is doing in order to keep the occupants safe, including removing the need for lights, stop signs and intersections.
We also discussed Transurban’s own internal modelling of how the widespread adoption of CAVs will have a significant impact on road transport demand and travel patterns, including the potential for a 10 to 25 per cent increase in motorway capacity by 2030 as a result of efficiencies from CAV capabilities in traffic.
Transurban continually looks for ways to create efficiencies in our operations that benefit our customers and shareholders. We are investing in Intelligent Transport Systems and value-added transport technologies to realise greater network benefits by consolidating technology systems across the network, and connecting and sharing data more effectively to improve safety and traffic management activities.
In FY16, we made considerable progress towards transitioning remaining New South Wales assets and customer systems onto our GLIDe tolling platform. Following these changes, GLIDe is now the tolling system for our Victorian and New South Wales retail brands and the majority of VIC and NSW assets (excluding CCT and M5).
Using one platform enables us to be more efficient and is key to us to providing an enhanced and consistent experience for our customers.
A review of the project was conducted to identify how we can deliver projects like this even better in the future, with the next major phase being to migrate customer systems from Transurban Queensland onto the GLIDe platform, commencing this migration from late 2017.
The ability to analyse and act on data has become increasingly important to ensure business success for many companies.
In FY16, we introduced dedicated Data Analytics capability into Transurban to enhance the process of collecting, organising and analysing large volumes of data from many disparate sources (otherwise known as ‘big data’).
By unlocking the value in the extensive data we gather on a daily basis, it will allow us to produce valuable, actionable business insights resulting in better informed, data driven decisions.
The combination of new technologies, data-science expertise and analytics disciplines is allowing Transurban to explore a number of opportunities, including:
During FY16, we strengthened our investment in cloud, digital and data with a range of value-adding transport technologies, including:
We are upgrading CityLink’s Operation, Management and Control System (OMCS) — used to run traffic management and safety systems — to increase performance and to support an additional 1,000 devices that will be added to the road as part of the CityLink Tulla Widening (CTW) project.
In FY16, the CTW Intelligent Transport Systems team developed a simulator to test the control system for the Burnley and Domain tunnels, allowing the team to carry out a broad range of testing during the OMCS upgrade that otherwise would not have been possible without road closures. This includes testing the operation of critical safety systems including fire, ventilation and high voltage electrical supply.
Automated testing was introduced to simulate the equivalent of months of manual testing within days. The simulator and automated testing saved time and also meant tunnel closures were not required to test the system. Previously, to carry out full testing, three overnight closures for the Burnley Tunnel and two for the Domain Tunnel would have been required.
This equates to an estimated 250 hours saved as well as 300,000 litres of water saved from testing the tunnel deluge systems, which are used for fire control.