Redflex: exploring the future of smart mobility in Europe

Encouraging road users to drive slowly and sensibly all goes towards creating a safer environment for our communities – Redflex aims to be at the forefront of ongoing innovations.

Redflex recognises our transport system is evolving at a rate unseen since the advent of the motorised vehicle. In the light of technology developments such as autonomous vehicles, machine learning, Big Data, blockchain and the Internet of Things (IoT), the industry is opening up to possibilities almost unimaginable today.

However, we have to be aware of three key challenges globally that are of concern:

  • Road safety;
  • Congestion management; and
  • Environmental effects and emission control.

In all three areas, some great strides have been made already. However, the difference between countries is pronounced, with developed countries generally more advanced in terms of the solutions they are already using – or just now exploring. This is likely to change quickly as the demographic, political and technological landscape evolves, and as the pressure mounts on individual jurisdictions to find solutions to their particular challenges.

Overall, some of the industry’s biggest achievements to date have related to compliance and safety. This can be clearly seen in the reduction in the number of speeding drivers over the years (not to mention drink driving, seatbelt/helmet compliance and more). With recent advances in technology, countless other opportunities to address the transport sector’s three key challenges may now be within reach.

Redflex: leading innovation

One company at the forefront of what’s happening internationally is Redflex, a world leader in the development and operation of traffic enforcement products and services, with over 500 staff globally and a strong presence in Europe. Indeed, if you have ever been fined for speeding – in countries as diverse as Ireland, England, America or Australia – there’s every chance that a Redflex camera system was utilised by the authorities to determine the offence. And as frustrating as that speeding ticket may be to us as drivers, longitudinal studies show that there is no question that traffic enforcement solutions both work and matter.

Worldwide, there were 1.25 million road traffic deaths in 2013 (the latest year for which there are available global statistics). An additional 20-50 million people were injured or disabled. Road traffic accidents rank as the ninth leading cause of death and account for 2.2% of all deaths globally.

Whilst many jurisdictions have taken steps to reduce the road toll, the fact remains that unless action is taken, road traffic injuries are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death around the world by 2030. This is something Redflex is determined to prevent.

Many countries have shown sharp reductions in the number of accidents and casualties with initiatives that promote behavioural change amongst motorists, and by legislating and enforcing laws governing speed limits.

All three approaches are important since an increase in average speed is directly related both to the likelihood of a crash occurring and to the severity of the consequences of the crash. An increase of one km/h in mean vehicle speed results in an increase of 3% in the incidence of crashes resulting in injury, and an increase of 4-5% in the incidence of fatal crashes. As a result, anything that encourages road users to obey speed limits is critical. Increasingly, authorities are turning to smart mobility interventions such as those provided by Redflex to manage and operate their motorway networks. These ‘smart’ motorways use traffic management technologies to increase capacity and reduce congestion.

Methods employed include using the hard shoulder as a running lane and also using variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic. By reducing the speed differential between vehicles (and the braking caused by speed differentials), and minimising lane changing, drivers have more time to react to changing conditions, which greatly improves driver safety.

Additional point solutions (signalling drivers to reduce their speed when an incident has occurred) and also proactive management (warning drivers ahead of time that there is a patch of congestion ahead and that they should slow down to avoid queues forming) enhance the overall effectiveness of the solution.

In the United Kingdom, Highways England and Transport Scotland’s Smart Motorways programmes have both shown excellent results. From its inception, Highways England’s programme has seen:

  • Personal injury accidents reduced by more than half;
  • Where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured;
  • Flow rates increased, with Smart Motorway technology and infrastructure helping smooth and maintain vehicle speeds; and
  • Journey time reliability improved by 22%.

Redflex has been a vital partner in the Smart Motorways programme with the company’s highly effective camera system accounting for approximately 80% of all systems in use on motorway sections across the UK. The Redflex system helps make it easier to keep traffic flowing during busy periods, supporting speed limits on motorways and capturing enforceable violation data.

The system constantly monitors the variable speed signs using advanced optical character recognition (OCR) technology. An overview of the scene gives a clear indication of the speed limit signposted at the time of an offence.

Today, Redflex has 82 ‘live’ sites and 31 more ready to be activated. Live sites include the M25 – one of the busiest motorways in the UK, if not within Europe, with some sections carrying an average of more than 200,000 vehicles per day. Redflex systems are in use within 15 separate regional enforcement authorities – providing vital proof of speed violations and encouraging motorists to monitor their speed and modify their behaviour.

Improving road safety with variable speed sign verification

Innovation is at the heart of the Redflex approach, with the third generation Redflex systems now capable of accurately detecting and verifying the variable speed signs displayed on motorways and comparing them with how fast a motorist is actually driving. Redflex technology enables Highways England to enforce variable speed limits across all running lanes (including the hard shoulder) from a single roadside location.

The Redflex system was the first to gain Home Office Type Approval accreditation, going from design to development and approval on schedule, all within a 24-month period. Redflex now has more than four years’ operational experience with the system on Britain’s roads. Other national road authorities are now considering the tried-and-tested system as a key component of their smart mobility motorway enforcement programmes.

“Agencies are looking for a way to make major roads and highways safer and for traffic to flow more smoothly, and Redflex’s suite of speed and lane enforcement systems provide automated management and control,” said Redflex CEO, Mark J. Talbot.

The company’s global reach is proving invaluable to customers, providing them with access to solutions developed for other jurisdictions and allowing them to leverage key lessons learned elsewhere around the world.

Solving a significant safety problem on smart mobility motorways

The innovations continue with the introduction earlier this year of Redflex’s Red-X lane closure enforcement system – the only one yet to have received Home Office Type Approval. Redflex, Highways England and technical experts, WSP, worked collaboratively to develop this smart and low-cost solution, leveraging the existing technology to solve a significant issue on Highways England’s strategic road network.

The Red-X enforcement system is a unique innovation and first-of-its kind in the industry worldwide. Until now, a Red-X could only be enforced when police witnessed a vehicle travelling in or entering the closed lane. As well as being dangerous for officers, monitoring Red-X offences in such a way is both labour-intensive and costly.

The aim of the automatic Red-X enforcement system is to encourage motorists to obey Red-X signs, thereby reducing the risk to road users who have broken down in a live lane, and to road workers and emergency services completing work under the protection of the Red-X. Importantly, it will also free police to concentrate on higher priorities.

The system uses OCR-based video analytics to identify the lane/s displaying the Red-X and enable lane closure enforcement. Upon detection of a Red-X violation – a vehicle travelling in a prohibited lane – a new incident type is created and processed in the same way as speed violations are today.

“We will continue to deliver innovative transportation solutions for our customers in government, law and traffic enforcement all over the world,” said Mr Talbot.

Where next for smart mobility motorways and enforcement?

An integrated ecosystem to improve smart motorways

Today, data relating to our traffic can be collected from many separate sources, from speed enforcement cameras to CCTV, not to mention emergency service networks and social media platforms – and the emerging connected automotive vehicles.

Creating a way to improve the flow of data between these separate ‘silos’ will both improve the quality of the data available to all and enable better decision-making and prediction. This suggests the need for an integrated platform or ecosystem, where participants share data for mutual benefit. As one example, Redflex’s traffic enforcement systems generate much raw data – flow, type of traffic, headway, speed – that could provide emergency services with real-time alerting of potential trouble spots.

The key question here is data sovereignty. Who really owns the data collected by today’s siloed systems? Concerns around sharing data that may be able to monetised at some point in the future may hinder enthusiasm for, and the development of, such an integrated platform despite the many potential benefits for smart mobility motorway system operators and others.

Another key consideration is whether data relating to public safety should indeed be privately held. Owners of smart mobility motorway systems, the automotive industry and others involved in public safety initiatives must be open to sharing data with other parties across the ecosystem, so that the value of the data is maximised as is the overall capability and benefits of the systems for all.

The value of personalisation

In the future, drivers will expect – and demand – personalised information to help them plan their journeys using real-time information from many platforms. For this to happen, Redflex plans to integrate data from the various transport modes together with wider data sets. Only with a unified platform will it be possible to provide truly personalised journey planning.

While current apps can advise your likely journey time based on an algorithm that uses historical data for that day of the week and that time of day, with an integrated ecosystem, data sets including public transport timetables and live tracking data will enable the Redflex app to calculate the shortest journey time and recommend alternate modes of transport in times of traffic congestion or incidents.

Captured data can also be shared to support and add value to the services provided by other agencies, including parking, law enforcement, border control and tariffs. This could add significant value to the driver’s personal experience too. For example, if you know that there is little parking available at your destination at your anticipated time of arrival, perhaps you will choose to take a bus or train rather than drive.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

According to Cisco, there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020, and the IoT is likely to have a profound impact on the transport industry. The introduction of V2V and V2I communications and other smart projects will only increase these numbers.

The use of connected devices and sensors in cars also opens up some interesting possibilities, including the opportunity to identify and monitor individual vehicles for behavioural patterns, deviations and even offences such as P2P speed violations (section control), close following and illegal emissions (although this last is politically contentious in some jurisdictions). All this will go a long way to making our roads safer and less congested, leading to making our environment cleaner.

There is also huge potential for information exchange – not only between devices in vehicles and the traffic networks, but also the other way round. Imagine a world where sensors on the road alert authorities to a driver’s behaviour, and where authorities can also alert drivers of conditions ahead while they are driving.

Redflex believes the focus must centre on installing a network of sensory devices and creating systems capable of managing the data generated, while using that data to enable better decision-making. The cumulative effect of these innovative technologies will significantly increase the relevance of traffic enforcement as our motorways and cities continue evolving.

For this to happen, however, the cost per device must be driven down low enough to be scalable, and violations must be enforceable. As shown by the introduction of booze buses and drink driving laws, the threat of knowing you might be caught and fined could be enough to change your behaviour.

Distracted Driving

One key focus for future initiatives is distracted driving. Highway fatalities are increasing in developed countries for the first time in many years. This trend has been directly attributed to an increase in distracted driving as a result of motorists using mobile phones and other handheld devices.

Today, the world accommodates more than 600 million cars and 4.6 billion mobile phone subscriptions. Enforcement of distracted driver offences and behavioural change programmes will be the only viable ways to reduce this problem in the future.

The statistics are concerning. Distracted drivers are approximately four times more likely to be involved in crashes compared with drivers who are focused on driving only. And drivers who text are twenty times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers. Research also shows that drivers take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds while texting; when travelling at 90 kilometres per hour, this equates to 110 metres travelled without looking at the road.

This data suggests that new ways of reducing distracted driver behaviour should be a key priority for all those wishing to enhance safety on the smart mobility motorways and roads of the future.

“Redflex is committed not only to finding new and innovative ways to improve road safety, but also on working with agencies, such as Highways England, legislators and police forces, to bring driver behaviour-changing innovations to the market as quickly as possible,” said Lew Miller, senior vice president of Global Operations at Redflex.

Data analytics and machine learning

The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that less than 1% of data captured on sensory devices is currently utilised. Redflex believes that through machine-to-machine communication, automation and advanced analytics, we can understand and scrutinise our environment and the processes that surround us in ways never before conceived. In addition, we can apply artificial intelligence and real-time data analytics to optimise road capacity, improve traffic flows and predict adverse events from occurring either at traffic lights or on roadside work sites.

Redflex is already working with authorities and customers in two key markets to utilise technology to increase work safety on motorway construction sites. This technology will help to alert drivers and workers to possible dangers from vehicles breaching work zones; and reduce workers’ exposure to risk when setting up worksites.

The role of the government

Government must play a crucial role, not only in setting public policy but also in outlining the framework for how technology will be applied and utilised. In addition, legislative changes are required to prosecute drivers identified by cameras on mobile devices – an increasingly common issue.

Regulatory approval is always vital as technology extends further into citizens’ lives. Regulators have a key role in setting rules for data practices regarding the collection, sharing and usage of data. As discussed previously, potential issues exist in three areas: data privacy and usage, security and interoperability. All of these areas must be resolved and the government has a vital role to play – in some elements of strategic execution, government is likely to take the lead to control the process.

The road ahead

The smart mobility industry must continue to evolve through innovation and the development of smarter systems and technology-driven solutions designed to realise their full potential. This relates not only to technological capabilities, but also how we utilise and share data across the virtual and physical silos that exist in the industry, including government, transport providers, technology vendors and, most importantly, consumers.

This can only be achieved by implementing solutions across the spectrum of technological developments – such as the Internet of Things, automotive vehicle to vehicle or infrastructure (V2X) communication, biometric facial imaging, big data, machine learning, video analytics – and promoting the business models and consumer behaviours that flow from these changes.

Drawing on lessons learned from alcohol, seatbelt and other programmes, behavioural change programmes will continue to be one of the key levers that can be used to improve road user behaviour – and thus road safety. Experience shows that this needs to be coupled with effective enforcement: the capture and ticketing of offenders punishes unlawful behaviour, and the threat of fines encourages other road users to avoid it.

Slowing people down and encouraging all road users to drive sensibly all goes to create a safer environment for our community and Redflex aims to be at the forefront of ongoing innovations.

About Redflex

The Redflex Group has established itself as a world leader in traffic enforcement products and services, developing leading enforcement camera technology and owning and operating one of the largest networks of digital speed and red-light cameras in the world. Redflex develops and manufactures a wide range of digital photo enforcement solutions including red-light camera, speed camera and school bus stop arm camera systems, all utilising the most advanced sensor and image capture technologies.

The Redflex Group runs its own systems engineering operations, system integration technologies and innovation centre for research and development. With continuous development of new safety products, the Redflex Group has been helping to reduce collisions and to save lives for more than twenty years.

Counting the cost: annual global road crash statistics

  • Road crashes cost USD $518 billion (~€443 billion) globally, costing individual countries from 1-2% of their annual GDP.
  • Road crashes cost low and middle-income countries USD $65 billion annually, exceeding the total amount received in developmental assistance.

Laurence Giles

Senior Vice President

Redflex Holdings

+61 390933350

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