'Smart' road stud trials cut motorway congestion

'Smart' solar-powered road markings that warn of bad weather or slow-moving traffic ahead have proved a significant success on highways in the Netherlands. Two installations have significantly eased traffic congestion on Holland's most crowded motorways. The system is also being tested on the busy M8 in Scotland.

The Dutch Ministry of Transport is looking at new ways to improve traffic management on crowded motorways which are nearing their capacity during the rush hour periods. One solution has been to open the hard shoulder as an extra lane during the rush hour, using Dynamic Lane Marking to indicate when it is open for use as an additional 'plus-lane'.

Astucia solar-powered road studs incorporating LEDs are hard-wired to traffic control rooms and are illuminated during times of congestion, directing traffic from the motor way's entry-ramp to the hard shoulder. The illuminated studs delineate the additional lane and also guide drivers onto the main carriageway when the plus-lane system is not in use.

The first sets of studs were installed in November 2004 on the busy A50 motorway linking Arnhem to Zwolle in the Gelderland province. The road carries an average of over 200,000 vehicles a day. A second installation is on the A44 motorway taking traffic from The Hague to a busy junction near Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, carrying an average of over 100,000 vehicles per day. Calculations have shown that the management system can increase the capacity of the motorway by as much as 40 per cent, as well as reducing accident rates. 

A spokesman for the Dutch Ministry of Transport commented: "The system is performing brilliantly. We feel that it is very easy for drivers to determine when the extra lane is open or not, and this is a very effective traffic management system. Astucia's products have proven to be able to provide a good guidance in the dark. The systems are visible at far greater distances than passively reflective systems, which influence both reaction time and driver comfort very positively. On those sites where Astucia products have been installed, a significant reduction in the accident figures has been noted."

In Britain, smart road-stud technology is currently under trial on the M8 between Glasgow and Edinburgh. The studs have been fitted to a 3km stretch of Scotland's busiest motorway, linked with traffic speed collection data to provide feedback to road users of hazards ahead. 

In the event of a bad weather, an incident or queuing traffic, control units automatically relay instructions to the appropriate strings of intelligent road studs. The activated studs then flash to provide hazard warning to approaching traffic. Intelligent queue tracking ensures that only the strings of studs upstream of any slow-moving or stationary traffic are activated.

"Astucia's prime aim is to provide smart, safe and sustainable technology, to provide motorists with advance warning of a hazard" says Astucia Managing Director Martin Rodgers. "In the M8 trial the increased brightness of the Astucia studs guide motorists safely through reduced visibility caused by fog or mist and by flashing, the studs alert drivers to a traffic jam or an accident further on, providing round-the-clock reassurance to drivers."


Image: Road studs with solar-powered LEDs provide better guidance than conventional reflectors [photo - Astucia]

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