Smart motorway technology is not working properly on any section of all-lane running (ALR) smart motorways, according to Highways magazine.
National Highways has been unable to ensure the efficient running of stopped vehicle detection technology (SVD) – which alerts operators of cars that may have broken down in moving lanes – including on stretches of smart motorway that were not meant to open without the technology.
At the end of 2022, a report by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) revealed that the SVD was falling short of its targets of a detection rate of 80%, a speed of detection within 20 seconds and a limit of 15% on false alerts, at both a national and regional level.
The government-owned company has been retrofitting the technology so that it is installed and can set signs and signals on motorways. However, its inability to reach the specified performance levels means that a new target of June 2023 has been set before the scheme can be fully completed.
Richard Pedley, chief digital and information officer at National Highways commented on the findings: “National Highways has well-established processes in place to safely manage the opening of schemes at 70mph.
“All lane running schemes are designed to, and do, operate safely without the need for SVD technology. It was introduced as an enhancement to the system of interrelated features to help further reduce the risks associated with live lane stops, enabling us to respond quickly through the setting of ‘report of obstruction’ warning signs, setting of a Red X signal to close one or more lanes, adjusting speed limits and deploying traffic officers.
“It’s right that road users expect high-performance standards, we welcome recent observations from the ORR that the roll-out of SVD technology will have improved the detection of stopped vehicles, with a further likely positive impact on reducing the duration of live lane stops.”
Many have criticised National Highways and the scheme, suggesting it misleads the public into believing that the SVD is working properly on smart motorways, when this may not be the case.