Transurban and Virginia Tech initiative aims to make roads safer for motorcyclists


One of the world’s leading toll road operators Transurban has invested US$400,000 in a partnership with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) to launch the Motorcycle Technology Evaluation Challenge (MotoTEC), an initiative to trial safety innovations.

Motorcyclist fatalities across the USA increased 5% from 2015 to 2016, accounting for 14% of all traffic deaths, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). However, riders are often overlooked in the discussion about advanced motorcycle technology. The MotoTEC program seeks to implement rider-centric research to identify and advance potential new technologies to address the safety and usability needs of motorbike riders on the road and around construction work zones.

Under the scheme, technology vendors with market- or near-market-ready motorcycle technologies are invited to submit their innovations and products free of cost to a MotoTEC steering committee comprising representatives across the motorcycle and transportation industries.

The steering committee will review these proposals and select a final technology to undergo real-world testing. VTTI will also work alongside the selected vendor to evaluate the product’s ability to create a better and safer riding experience for motorcyclists.

VTTI and Transurban have a history of accelerating transportation innovation, technology testing, and development in Virginia. In 2015, the two organizations in partnership with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), the Virginia Transportation Research Council (VTRC), the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and Here Technologies, launched the Virginia Automated Corridors testbed in Northern Virginia, which provides an automation-friendly environment that government agencies, original equipment manufacturers and suppliers can use to test and certify their connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) systems.

Transurban has also recently announced the launch of pilot technology projects in partnership with two startups identified through its Smart Highways Challenge to improve traffic management and forecasting on its 40 mile-long (64km), dynamically tolled road network in the Washington DC area of Northern Virginia. The company’s Express Lanes are dynamically tolled lanes that operate on I-495 and I-95 to provide customers with faster and more predictable travel options.

“We created our motorcycle research group to direct research attention to the specific needs of motorcyclists. Transurban shares this goal,” said Shane McLaughlin, VTTI’s motorcycle research group leader.

“We’ve designed MotoTEC to focus on the needs of riders, to reveal promising safety and rider support solutions, and to provide system developers with design review and robust testing. There is great opportunity here to reduce the number of crashes on our roadways. We can’t wait to get started.”

Jennifer Aument, president of Transurban North America, added, “The risk of injury to motorcycle riders increases in work zones, especially as our nation’s highways become more congested. Research shows that motorcyclists account for 10% of all work zone fatalities. At Transurban, we believe investing in innovation and partnering with research leaders like VTTI is instrumental in delivering the safest, most advanced roadways; and that can start on our Express Lanes network here in Virginia.”

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About Author


Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).