One of Highways England’s key objectives is to provide road users with information that is relevant to their journeys. Smart motorways are an obvious example and now, thanks to pioneering work from leading transport infrastructure specialist Colas Limited, information on travel times through roadworks is also available in real time. This means drivers are better informed, improving their experience and thereby reducing the risk to road workers of hazardous driving.
Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) can often be utilised to track the progress of vehicles, but with diversion routes that may vary in location and route on a nightly basis, its use is not always practical nor cost effective. Colas has worked with wireless systems technology experts Iknaia to develop a system that allows the real time active management of diversion routes without recourse to ANPR technology.
Airscan is a new system developed jointly by Colas and Iknaia which uses anonymous Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals transmitted by visible devices in passing vehicles. Data is collected by sensors and relayed to variable messaging signs (VMS) which then advise road users in advance of potential delays and allow for strategic checks by maintenance teams. As part of the system, Traffic Management (TM) teams are also issued with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) tags that can be used to monitor the location of teams by checking in staff as they pass sensors on their route.
Ryan Wood, Colas Technical Manager, is key contact for the project and has been responsible for its initial trial at Highways England’s M3 smart motorway upgrade, for main contractor Balfour Beatty. “We are committed to delivering innovation on our highways projects and, through our work with Iknaia, we believe that Airscan is a solution that will not only benefit road users through real-time updates on traffic, but will also assist in improving the safety of our road workers.”
This approach to active management of diversion routes will continue to operate on the M3 smart motorway project and will be rolled out across other Highways England schemes to complement Intelligent Transport Systems strategies across the UK.