‘Life-saving’ technology on smart motorways is failing to detect nearly four in 10 broken vehicles

‘Life-saving’ technology on smart motorways is failing to detect nearly four in 10 broken vehicles

  • Technology
  • July 8, 2022
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  • 12 minutes read


“Save lives” technology on smart highways fails to detect nearly four in 10 damaged vehicles within a “safe time limit”

  • Vehicle detection technology is marking only 62 percent of stranded traffic
  • The SVD system is “unfortunately inadequate” and drivers are often “seated ducks”
  • Smart sidewalks without sidewalks leave abandoned drivers in live traffic

Life-saving technology on smart highways is not detecting nearly four out of ten damaged vehicles in a timeframe considered safe by road chiefs.

A shocking internal report found that stopped vehicle detection (SVD) technology is marking only 62 percent of those stranded in live traffic in 20 seconds.

This is the period of time deemed acceptable by the National Highways road agency, according to the unpublished 2019 report, obtained by the Daily Mail under the Freedom of Information Act.

Motoring groups said it demonstrated that the radar-based SVD system is “unfortunately inadequate” and means drivers are often “sitting ducks” when they crash on all-lane smart highways (ALRs).

These have a hard shoulder and drivers can be left in live traffic, with the risk of being hit by other vehicles.

The study found that one-fifth of SVD alerts are incorrect when no more than 15 percent should be incorrect.

The study found that one-fifth of SVD alerts are incorrect when no more than 15 percent should be incorrect.

About one-fifth of SVD alerts are also incorrect, the study found, including signaling breakdowns on the road opposite where they actually happen. National Highways says no more than 15 percent should be wrong.

The disclosure raises new questions about why ministers and national highways have moved forward with highways despite these mistakes in a key safety feature.

The report reinforces the findings of a Mail investigation last year into the roads of the “deadly trap” that revealed a litany of life-threatening security flaws.

An internal report found that Stop Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology is marking only 62 percent of people stranded in live traffic in 20 seconds.

An internal report found that Stop Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology is marking only 62 percent of people stranded in live traffic in 20 seconds.

A covert journalist from a national highway control center witnessed the system not shutting down when a car ran aground on a stretch of M25 smart highway for 30 minutes.

The February 2019 report, prepared by external consultants, has been kept secret by National Highways despite security activists calling for it to be released.

Even more deadly miles

Another deadly stretch of smart highway has opened this week to create the country’s largest road of its kind.

The 15-mile stretch from Hayes, west London, to Maidenhead adds to a 17-mile contiguous section opened earlier this year.

It means the hard shoulder has been removed and turned into an additional live lane 32 miles from the M4 between junctions 3 and 12, which runs from west London to Berkshire.

It has 64 miles of road when both sides of the road are included. Most smart highways are about ten miles, or 20, including both sides.

Although 100 miles of these projects have been stopped, another 100 miles are underway, including the M4 stretch.

He tested SVD for four days on a stretch of the ALR freeway on the M25 between junctions 23 and 27, with 563 alerts activated. Only 62% were detected in 20 seconds and 86% in one minute, with 14% lost.

The report says, “Clearly, a rapid response is vital to the effective use of the SVD system, as early operator intervention will mitigate the risk posed by a vehicle parked in a live lane.”

SVD is critical to safety, as crash-blocked lanes cannot be closed to traffic until the system alerts control room personnel.

Jack Cousens of the AA said: “The so-called ‘smart’ highways were sold to the public by National Highways on the basis that ‘if the worst happens, we will find you and keep you safe.’

‘Surprisingly, drivers are sitting for longer than they should be. These figures show that the system is unfortunately inadequate.

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on a stretch of the M1 without a hard bar in 2019, said, “Technology doesn’t work and it’s killing people.”

The Department of Transportation said it had commissioned an evaluation of the SVD and “has paused new smart highway schemes as we collect more data.”

Duncan Smith of National Highways said the technology “adds to a system of interrelated features on smart highways to help further reduce risks.”



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