As long as humans are behind the wheel, reaching zero fatalities on Australian roads is an ambitious endeavour. However, fatalities can be significantly reduced with the help of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), and other integrated technologies.
Intelligent Transport Systems utilise computer-driven communication to improve efficiency and safety on our roads, while simultaneously reducing pollution, according to ITS-Australia. There have already been a few developments in these systems as Australia’s vehicle technology shifts towards more sophisticated automation, which is a good sign for heavy vehicle drivers.
While efforts have been made across the board, Australia still has a long way to go when it comes to road safety and minimising fatalities.
Government Initiatives in Road Safety & Integrated Technology for Heavy Vehicles
With up to 11 per cent of road fatalities between 2004 and 2015 involving articulated trucks, it’s clear more needs to be done to protect heavy vehicle drivers. This need for safer roads, not only for passenger cars but also heavy vehicles, has been identified by most State governments. Some already have strategies and plans in place that include integrated technology solutions for heavy vehicles.
Steve Krebs, founder and CEO of online machinery marketplace Machines4U, says he expects more integrated technologies to reach Australian heavy vehicles in the near future.
“With more advancements in technology providing greater safety solutions for road users, we expect to see an uptake in smarter trucks on the platform in the coming years, largely thanks to government initiatives pushing for more integrated vehicle technologies.”
According to Queensland’s Heavy Vehicle Safety Action Plan 2019-21, the Queensland Government is on the front foot of road safety to minimise heavy vehicle fatalities. Their Road Safety Strategy and Action Plan identifies the need for integrated technologies such as Autonomous Emergency Braking Systems, Lane Departure Warning Systems, Electronic Stability Control and Fatigue Warning Systems (crash avoidance technologies). It also outlines key initiatives that will help pave the way for integrated technologies within heavy vehicles, such as:
- An initiative for reviewing the PBS scheme on a national scale, and increasing the presence of PBS vehicles on suitable road networks
- Being an advocate for the fast-track of mandatory safety technologies in new heavy vehicles
- Encourage the increased uptake of telematics and other safety technologies for business and/or regulatory purposes
Initiatives in New South Wales
In New South Wales, heavy vehicles are involved in around 18 per cent of all road fatalities, which has prompted a major focus on safety features and technologies for heavy vehicles in this region.
To reduce these road fatalities, Transport for NSW (in collaboration with The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics) has undergone a three-year automated vehicle research and development trial, which aims to understand how automated vehicles interact with vulnerable road users. This trial will help develop intelligent vehicle systems to improve the safety of these interactions.
Alongside this, the Centre for Road Safety is trialling connected level crossings to enable heavy vehicles to communicate with each other and with roadside infrastructure, such as traffic signals and railway level crossings.
The main issue with emerging technologies for heavy vehicles in Australia is ensuring these technologies are ready for use on public roads. Once this is confirmed, the next step is ensuring these technologies are able to be retrofitted to existing trucks, and available at the point of sale for new vehicles. All this is where the initiatives above come into play.
Integrated Technologies for Heavy Vehicles
Vehicle technology is shifting to more sophisticated automation with increased connection through wireless communication. The University of Melbourne’s Faculty of Engineering and Information Technology are also investigating the concept of Physical Internet (PI), which is gaining traction as a high-tech alternative to existing supply networks. This system looks to build more robust supply chains by matching vehicles with the required movement of goods via transfer points, such as sensitising traffic signals to trucks to allow for optimised traffic flow. This would help reduce risk of accidents involving trucks at traffic lights and intersections in built-up areas.
Heavy Vehicle Crash Avoidance Technologies
Another type of integrated technology set to make a difference to heavy vehicle operators is crash avoidance technologies, which aim to reduce the likelihood of an accident.
These technologies can include:
- Electronic Stability Control (ESC) Systems
- Trailer Roll Stability (TRS) Systems
- Electronic Braking System (EBS)
- Anti Jack-Knife Braking
- Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC)
- Driver Fatigue Monitoring System
Heavy Vehicle Protective Technologies
Heavy vehicle protective technologies, much like crash avoidance technologies, are set to improve heavy vehicle operator safety. These technologies aim to reduce the severity of impact in the event of an accident, and can include:
- Rear, Side and Front Underrun Protective Devices (RUPDs)
- Automatic Brake Adjustment (ABA) Devices
Although there is still a way to go in reducing risk and fatalities involving heavy vehicles on Australian roads, there is hope for the future with many of the State government bodies on board to make a change with the use of integrated technologies.
While integrated technologies aren’t fully implemented as yet, it will be interesting to see the impact these technologies have on Australian road toll statistics.