The Australian traffic management system driving the super highways of tomorrow

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Roads around the world are getting smarter. Traffic management is a high tech enterprise and the battle to beat congestion, improve safety, and make our major roads more efficient is big business.

It’s no wonder. Congestion wastes time, and time is money. A report published this year by INRIX, a transport-data company, found that in developed countries, city-dwellers lose nearly $1,300 (AUD) a year sitting in traffic. Australian government estimates put the avoidable cost of congestion for our capital cities at around $16.5 billion, having grown from about $12.8 billion in 2010, and rising to around $30 billion by 2030.

The world is turning to technology for help. The impetus to get traffic moving is literally turning roads into information super highways, with smart management systems delivering operational and safety benefits for road users, operators, planners, as well as the community, economy and environment.

The traffic management system currently making headway around the globe is Johnson Controls’ Meridian system, which was developed in Australia and is now being used for motorways and tunnels all over the world. This advanced software solution for monitoring and controlling complex systems and devices has most recently been selected by Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) as the foundation of their Smart Motorway Management System. The project is scheduled for completion mid 2019 and will initially operate on a section of the M4 in Western Sydney, New South Wales. The platform is currently deployed at the Tugun bypass and tunnel project at the Gold Coast Airport in Queensland, and the Penlink motorway in Victoria. It is also being used for traffic management across global cities in Europe, the US and the smart transport hubs of Asia.

Each project varies in complexity from tolling systems in Portugal to a highly sophisticated 13km tunnel network in Singapore, which coordinates and controls over 60,000 devices.

“The system was designed and developed here in Australia by a team of in-house transportation engineers who have continually refined and adapted the platform by listening to the needs of customers. By keeping pace with technology, there has been huge ongoing demand for this smart system which has become a major export around the world,” explained Jordon Peters, Service and Development General Manager for Johnson Controls’ Transportation and Integrated Controls division.

“Meridian uses an integrated approach to its intelligent transportation system (ITS) and can be adapted to integrate existing and emerging technologies to make motorways easier to manage. This includes CCTV, predictive analytics, traffic detection, SCATS data, variable and changeable message signs, hardware cabinets and other plant equipment. Meridian takes all the data and makes it useful and actionable to improve operators’ situational awareness and reduce the time it takes to clear incidents, all with the with the click of a mouse,” added Peters.

“Beyond its integrated operating system, Meridian also has the brainpower to gather and analyse information. It’s capable of identifying ongoing road usage and capacity issues that allow agile management of the motorway, saving time and money, and improving safety.”

Predicative smart traffic technology

All motorway systems can be controlled via Meridian due to the platform’s flexibility. It provides the operator with a single interface so there is no need to switch between applications. It can even directly change settings in other underlying systems by using Meridian’s comprehensive response plans.

The system features a rich graphical user interface (GUI) with menu and mouse-driven Windows applications. This GUI, known as the Meridian Workbench, relays real-time status updates of devices through video, images and data-tables as appropriate. The easy to use road network map features the latest GIS technology, linked with the spatial database of Meridian, to allow the operator to retrieve information about any aspect of the systems with a mouse click.

Standard Meridian features include:

  • High availability and reliability
  • Integrated Traffic, Plant (SCADA), and Incident Management, into one system
  • Geographic Information System (GIS) Technology – real locations, used for accurate incident management.
  • Schematics / SCADA displays
  • Automatic Dynamic Response
  • Regular updates which incorporate new features and capability
  • As well as network planning, the Meridian technology is beneficial for enhancing road safety and performance.

    With modern traffic data analysis and reporting the key to identifying bottlenecks and increasing flow capacity, smart systems like Meridian support long term road planning and evolve with the needs of increasingly complex road and infrastructure networks. Urban roads being built today, and planning for expansion of road networks, will rely heavily on sophisticated statistical analysis tools to improve the overall performance and operational efficiency.

    Roads and tunnels are multi-billion dollar infrastructure investments that need to be carefully managed to optimise their use and prolong their life. The Johnson Controls Meridian platform is future proofing today’s motorways in preparation for the arrival of driverless cars and other technological changes as the information super highway age takes hold.

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