A new report by National Highways shows that the road operator hit all its targets for stopped vehicle detection (SVD). This technology alerts operators to cars that may have broken down in moving lanes on smart motorways, aiming to improve the safety of the controversial roads.
The report to ORR stated that 92% of stopped vehicles were detected within 20 seconds. The research means that the system can officially become commonplace on all-lane running (ALR) smart motorways. However, some have raised concerns over the strength of the testing data.
Highways reported software fixes as one main factor that has led them to hit their targets. Alerts by SVD are tested against CCTV footage of incidents. Yet, a new methodology for testing meant that as many as 85% of the stopped vehicle alerts were disregarded as ‘unverifiable’ if the CCTV footage was incomplete, and excluded from the final data.
The report found that out of 21 ALR smart motorway schemes, there were 3,850 alerts. A huge 3,286 were classified as unverified, leaving a sample size of just 564 to be used for testing SVD detection.
In response to the report, the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) has requested that National Highways review how it ‘collects and analyses information about unverified alerts’.
It also found that four of National Highways’ six operational regions achieved annual average attendance times for stopped vehicles of under 10 minutes in the year from September 2022 to August 2023. Those outside of the 10-minute target were the East region (10 minutes and 22 seconds) and the South East (10 minutes and 55 seconds).
Highways England is also behind on its plans to roll out more than 150 extra emergency areas on ALR smart motorways by the end of 2025. As of September 2023, work on just 13 emergency areas was completed, on the M1 and M6.