Smart motorway safety ‘not yet meeting performance expectations’

The Office of Rail and Road has stated that while the smart motorway network should meet safety targets, the systems are still below par

smart motorways

THE Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has published its first annual assessment of the strategic road network (that includes the UK’s smart motorway routes), and there is good and bad news.

While the report does conclude that the roads are on course to hit the safety targets set out, big changes will be needed to improve the safety of the roads.

One of the elements of smart motorways that is the focus of the report is the Stopped Vehicle Detection system (SVD). This radar-based system is designed to detect stranded vehicles that could pose a hazard to the occupants and other road users. While the report does conclude that SVD was implemented on all ALR smart motorway roads before its deadline, it goes on to point out that it’s too early to tell if it has had a positive effect or not. It also notes that the acceleration of the rollout has caused SVD to be rushed through, claiming its performance is ‘falling short of the performance requirements the company set itself.’

Smart Motorway SVD performing six times worse than it should be

One of the issues with the SVD is in false detections, of which the rate is, in some cases, nearly six times what it should be. The company that implemented the system set itself a target of no more than 15% false detections across the smart motorway network. The ORR reports that the number of false detections ranged from between 63.8% and 83.5% across all UK regions.

Speaking about the report, ORR Chief Executive John Larkinson said:

“Our previous work on smart motorway data has shown that these roads are as safe as the motorways they replaced but the number of live lane breakdowns are higher.

“Having the SVD radar detection equipment in place sooner than planned has helped to reduce the duration of these breakdowns more quickly but it’s not working as well as it should.

“While it is still too early to have robust data, it’s clear National Highways needs to urgently improve its performance in this area.”

Head to Head | 2023 Honda CB750 Hornet Vs Suzuki GSX 8S

Head to Head | 2023 Honda CB750 Hornet Vs Suzuki GSX 8S