The highways agency in Western Australia is preparing for the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on the state’s roads, and has released a report on the changes to infrastructure needed to enable their safe operation. The report, ‘Automated Vehicles: Are we ready?’, looks into how Main Roads WA, as a road agency, needs to be prepared for the introduction of AVs, by identifying and implementing the changes and improvements that may be required by its infrastructure, in order to ensure the safety of all road users. The report explains that AV technology is developing so rapidly that automated cars may appear on its road network sooner than expected, fundamentally changing all transport operations. Releasing the report, managing director of Main Roads WA, Steve Troughton, said, “It will inform our strategic decision-making process, and position the organization to appropriately respond to a potentially disruptive innovation, which could fundamentally change the transport landscape and society, and have profound implications for those Agencies involved. Managing the transition period is likely to be particularly challenging for road operators and will require significant transformation in road Agencies.”
Troughton said Main Roads should take a leading role to facilitate and adopt AVs on the road network, so that the Western Australian community could derive early benefits from the technology. “I asked our Road Network Operations branch to produce this report, primarily to raise awareness within the organization of the current state of play in regard to Automated Vehicles and what it means for us as a road Agency,” he said. Troughton noted that the issues to be resolved include: electronic control system safety; liability and regulation; privacy; security and the risk of hacking; public acceptance; and the accuracy of vehicle positioning. “Other implications for Main Roads include the need to roll out more roadside units, future proofing of new ITS, higher standards in road signs and markings, common standard formats for traffic and incident data, and changes in fundamentals in traffic engineering, transport modelling, road design and pavement engineering,” Troughton added.
“Full automation will also result in infrastructure changes such as the removal of traffic control. Static and digital signs may become redundant, although there will still be challenges in providing a controlled environment for vulnerable road users to cross the road, Troughton noted. “Building up our organizational capability will be critical for a successful transition. A core group of experts, strongly linked with the relevant national and international committees that set the required standards, policy and regulatory frameworks, and ITS architecture aligned with national initiatives, will be required to identify the potential implications and to guide the organization through this major change to the transport landscape.”