Melbourne to trial revolutionary congestion busting app by Intelematics

Brian Smith, Intelematics General Manager of Strategic Relationships

Is it actually possible to provide a service that assists a car to take the best possible routes, at the best possible speed, to avoid as many red lights as possible? That is the research mobility services provider Intelematics has been tasked with by VicRoads.

We hope to develop a technology that can leverage Managed Motorways data and the traffic signal system, known as SCATS, to provide an in-car service to smooth the journey.

This works by reducing the number of stop-starts caused by red lights and increasing the chance of arriving at lights when they are green.

The Intelematics technology is innovative research, with a prototype hoped to be ready by mid-2018.

The ultimate goal

Intelematics is equipped with a driver information service called Suna, which puts real-time traffic information into vehicles via the in-car navigation system using an international standard called RDS-TMC.

We collect data from the road authorities and from a range of other sources and produce a real time traffic information service

Cars in Australia with navigation systems almost all have the capability to receive traffic data in the the RDS-TMC format, because that standard is used extensively in Europe and North America.

Cars made for those markets have that as standard, so they just arrive here pretty much able to work with our traffic service. So we’ve already been putting content into vehicles, but this is about looking at putting additional content in.

This VicRoads grant will help us with R&D for developing capabilities around Managed Motorway and Greenwave content.

The real development in this case is around the backend systems that generate the content, not in the app on the phone or in the car. The app is a convenient way of testing the development of the systems that provide the information and testing the value provided to the driver.

Ultimately, we’re much more interested about getting the information into the built-in car system so it runs in the background and advises you what you need to know without you having to have an app open on your smartphone.

While we certainly recognise there is the potential to do some things via apps, our long-term goal is to work with car companies like Toyota, Ford and others to get this content deeply integrated into the car.

If our R&D works out, the potential is drivers could run into less red lights and that would help reduce fuel consumption, greenhouse gasses and improve the smooth flow of traffic and the road user experience.

How Managed Motorways data will be delivered

Managed Motorways is a broad suite of capabilities but in relation to this project is concerned with providing information such as lane closures and variable speed information directly into the car. Currently this information is provided to drivers via roadside variable message signs

These signs are very expensive, largely fixed, and people can approach from half a dozen different roads, putting those variable message signs up to give people that information, irrespective of where they are coming from, is extremely difficult.

If they are behind a truck they may miss it. So there a range of reasons why actually getting the information directly into cars, into all cars if possible, eventually means that people get this information in a more usable and friendly way.

The challenge of using green wave systems to create the pathways for vehicles

Australia has some of the most advanced traffic signal systems in the world, as they are all computer controlled and they vary the timing of the lights pretty much continuously based on the traffic flow through each individual intersection.

But it’s a zero sum game, there’s only 60 seconds in a minute. If you give 30 seconds of it in one direction, then you’ve only got 30 seconds to give in the other. You can’t up the amount of green time in the network overall, because what you give to one direction, you take away from the other.

So the computer control system known as SCATS (Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System) in Australia … uses all the data from each intersection to adjust the signal timing of the lights at each intersection so as to maximise the overall traffic flow through the entire road network.

This means the time for when red changes to green may be changing almost continuously.

What we’re working on with VicRoads and other partner organisations is can we predict with enough accuracy enough of the time the timing of these lights into a car so it can provide a suggested travel speed? So the car can travel at a speed where it is much more likely to get through the lights during green rather than stop at a red.

When the new system will be ready for consumers

There is real research and development and therefore risk associated with this project.

We will be building demonstration apps or services and then we will be running those through some fairly rigorous testing and measuring the sorts of benefits that we do or don’t get.

Should we be able to deliver benefits that we think are worth taking further, then Intelematics would look to leverage its relationships with the Australian motoring clubs, such as RACV, and the car companies we already work including Ford and Toyota in bringing this product to market. We are already working with them to put apps into their cars.

Intelematics would also look at having this technology adopted as an international standard, we can assist in this as we are heavily engaged with industry bodies such as ITS Australia, TISA and ISO.

Then it would be a commercial process of developing up the activities into the commercial product. We are talking mid-2018 as the conclusion of the Victorian Government funded prototype phase.

Brian Smith
Intelematics General Manager Strategic Relationships