Technology and innovation
Connected and automated vehicles
Automated vehicles have enormous potential to make road journeys safer and more efficient, and to help the community travel with greater ease, including people with limited mobility. As human error contributes to more than 90 per cent of crashes, self-driving vehicles are an important step towards reducing road trauma.
Automated vehicle research
- In the USA, Transurban has partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute for an initiative designed to inform practices and policies related to connected and automated vehicles. Through this program, the Virginia Automated Corridors Initiative pilot program, we are exploring the practical application of emerging technologies and gaining a better understanding of how these vehicles can improve safety and customer experiences on our roads. The program has already conducted real-world trials on Transurban Express Lanes.
- In FY17 Transurban joined the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) as a core partner alongside organisations including Volvo, Telstra, Suncorp and the Australian Road Research Board. Our involvement with ADVI will enhance our understanding of the latest international connected and automated vehicle developments. This initiative is also a forum through which we can share our experiences from the Virginia Automated Corridors Initiative.
Victorian automated vehicle trial
We are conducting an automated vehicle trial along the Monash-CityLink-Tullamarine corridor in Victoria. This trial will help prepare Victorian roads and the community for the future of driverless vehicles. The Victorian Government is partnering with Transurban, supported by the RACV, to trial connected and automated vehicles from manufacturers BMW, Mercedes, Tesla and Volvo.
This trial will test vehicles with partial automation such as lane keep assist, adaptive cruise control and traffic sign recognition. The first phase of the program will collect insights into how these vehicles respond and interact with the road environment including tunnels, road works, congestion, electronic speed signs and line markings. The findings will enable Transurban and our project partners to better understand how to prepare road infrastructure, regulations and the community for the integration of this new technology into our transport system. Phase one of the trial will be completed in late 2017.
Introduced in 2015, the Transurban Innovation Grants Program has created unique opportunities for Transurban to work with leading researchers and organisations on the development of ideas to advance the transport industry and to improve safety for motorists. The new materials and technologies our grants program supports could eventually benefit the transport sector and community as a whole, with potential applications far broader than Transurban-managed networks.
New grants awarded in FY17
In FY17, we awarded three $100,000 innovation grants:
University of Melbourne
This grant will support research into a speed sensor with LED lights. When attached to the road surface, this sensor could potentially provide real-time customised signals encouraging speeding drivers to slow down. This technology could also help improve the way vehicles enter and exit ramps.
University of Melbourne researcher Dr Ranjith Unnithan said, “Speeding continues to be one of the leading causes of traffic crashes in Australia resulting in fatality or serious injury. The industry needs new, cost-effective technologies to reduce accidents on our roads, to increase spacing between travelling vehicles and to guide motorists to reduce speeds ahead of congested areas. With Transurban’s grant, we’ll be trialling a sensor-based system that gives real-time feedback to drivers to improve safety and customise their driving experience on the motorway.”
Imagine Intelligent Materials
This grant will support the trial of a graphene pressure sensor that, when integrated into the motorway surface, could potentially enable a ‘smarter’ road capable of reporting on traffic density, weight, volume and road surface condition.
Imagine Intelligent Materials Head of R&D Dr Phil Aitchison said, “We’re excited to work with Transurban on this ground-breaking ‘smart road’ project. When applied to roads the smart sensing technology we’re developing will enable motorway operators to gain greater knowledge of traffic flows, communicate with smart vehicles and improve the user experience.”
The Institute for Frontier Materials at Deakin University
This grant will support the development of a high-energy absorbing overlay made from recycled plastic and textile fibres which can be used to cover roadside wire rope barriers and could potentially reduce injury severity in crashes involving motorcyclists.
Deakin University researcher Dr Jin Zhang said, “With Transurban’s support we’re trialling the development of a low-cost, low environmental-impact solution that could be retrofitted over existing roadside barriers at critical locations. The overlay we are developing provides a smooth flat surface, designed to spread impact forces and significantly improve safety outcomes for motorcyclists. Statistically motorcyclists have a far greater risk of life-threatening injuries in crashes compared to vehicle occupants, so we’re hoping our research could lead to a solution that one day reduces serious injuries and saves lives.”
Previous grant projects
Two previous Innovation Grant recipients reached major project milestones in FY17.
RMIT in partnership with the University of Technology Sydney
This grant supported research into the management of motorway noise through acoustic treatment using noise cancellation and transformation technologies. The project, which has now conducted 12 months of research, brought world-leading experts together to conduct unique experiments into the potential shaping of noise to create new and different listening environments. Community response to demonstration sites established along CityLink and Hills M2 and the research findings reveal potential for such technologies to play a role in noise management along motorways. The full research report is available here.
University of Newcastle
This grant supported research into a potential new material for energy-absorbing modules in road safety barriers. The material is based on a highly energy-absorbent metallic foam, known as perlite metallic syntactic foam. At the end of FY17, the research group completed the project with successful initial impact tests of the material. Transurban and the University are currently determining the next steps to progress this work.
This year, we broadened our search for transport and technology solutions by introducing crowdsourcing challenges to generate ideas.
1776 Smart Highways Startup Challenge
Through our partnership with global start-up incubator 1776, we have asked the start-up community to help provide innovative solutions to improve Transurban’s networks and bring benefits to drivers with convenient, safe highways and toll roads. The Transurban Smart Highways Challenge includes the areas of vehicle monitoring, smart transportation and road safety.
We are identifying start-ups to join us in the Transurban Innovation Lab between August and October 2017 to test and grow solutions to real-life transportation challenges and improve our customers' experiences.
For more information, read about the Transurban Smart Highways Challenge
Brisbane Cityhack 2017
Transurban participated in the 2017 Brisbane CityHack, an innovative competition-style hack-a-thon that challenges participants to develop solutions that will have a positive impact on the future of Brisbane.
Transurban, AECOM, Brisbane City Council, Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, and Queensland Urban Utilities each posed a challenge related to the theme, Get Moving, to more than 100 participants. Five teams pitched a solution to Transurban.
The winner, team Get'N'There, proposed a way to change driver behaviour, engage customers and the community through gamification and incentives using real-time traffic information.