Austria could be first to set up smart motorway safety system – and UK shows why it’s needed

Austria is set to be the first European country to set up a system for its motorways in which vehicles interact with the road and each other to collect and transmit safety information in real‐time.

The Austrians have taken pole position in a trans-European initiative. The Cooperative Intelligent Transport System, or C‐ITS, is a European Commission plan to give the continent’s roads a common smart safety infrastructure.

One of the organisations implementing the plan is C-Roads, a joint initiative between the EU’s member states and national road operators. The core members are Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the UK.

Marko Jandrisits, head of telematics at Austria’s state-owned road operator ASFiNAG, told the ITS World Congress, held in Copenhagen last week, that his company had just launched a tender for equipping the Austrian motorway network with the hardware and software for C-ITS.

Austrian C-Roads pilot sites stretch from Vienna to Salzburg and includes the Linz area. In western Austria, it covers the A12 and A13 motorway sections around Innsbruck. In the south the test site will be set up around the city of Graz. ASFiNAG hopes to have a network of compliant motorways in place by 2020.

Martin Böhm, the general secretary of C‐Roads, commented: "The common goal of all members is the seamless provision of safety‐relevant information in real‐time and on a uniform level of quality. This especially includes road works warning, weather information or messages on traffic jams. All of those will operate across borders."

The national infrastructure companies are working with car-makers to establish the necessary telematics equipment and communication protocols. The manufacturers involved include Hyundai, Opel, Honda, Volkswagen, Renault, Volvo Trucks and Fiat.

Although Austria is likely to win the race to get a national system up and running, all the C‐Roads member states have set up and tested national pilots. In the summer cross‐border tests were conducted with vehicles from France and Portugal successfully using the Austrian C-ITS system.  

Meanwhile, the latest road accident figures for the UK, released yesterday (27 September), underline the need for safety improvements.

The Department of Transport’s annual statistical release revealed that there were 1,793 reported road deaths in 2017, an increase of one on 2016.

Broadly speaking, road fatalities have greatly improved over time, falling from 6,352 in 1979 to 2,946 in 2007 to this year’s figure. However, little progress in cutting deaths has been made since 2010, with any downward progress being due to "random variations".

The UK figures also suggest that although cars and roads may be becoming more intelligent, humans are, if anything, going in the opposite direction. The statistics show that the proportion of car occupants killed while not wearing a seat best has reached 27% – the highest figure since records began.

Image: The UK has not improved its road safety over the past seven years (Motoring Research)

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