Com­put­ers will con­trol com­muters

Kapi-Mana News - - OUT & ABOUT - JOEL MAXWELL

‘‘Speeds on the mo­tor­way ... will be set by hu­man op­er­a­tors un­til Me­tanet is ready to take over.’’

Com­put­ers are now watch­ing ev­ery move mo­torists make on Welling­ton’s mo­tor­way, and by year’s end will be con­trol­ling the daily com­mute of 90,000 ve­hi­cles.

The New Zealand Trans­port Agency opened the south­bound lanes of the cap­i­tal’s new $55 mil­lion smart mo­tor­way sys­tem on Fri­day.

A com­puter pro­gram called Me­tanet is now in learn­ing mode and in six months will have picked up enough from mo­torists’ habits to be­gin de­cid­ing what the speed limit will be be­tween John- sonville and the Ter­race Tun­nel.

Welling­ton’s smart mo­tor­way sys­tem is the first of its kind in this coun­try.

The idea is for com­put­ers to an­a­lyse traf­fic pat­terns on the mo­tor­way and pre­vent con­ges­tion be­fore it hap­pens by slow­ing ve­hi­cles down as low as 60kmh to smooth out their flow and avoid bot­tle­necks.

Me­tanet’s meth­ods for track­ing ve­hi­cles in­clude radars in­stalled on road­side light poles, 100 de­tec­tors un­der the road sur­face and blue­tooth on driv­ers’ smart de­vices.

It will take that in­for­ma­tion and use elec­tronic signs to con­trol speeds.

The Trans­port Agency pub­licly an­nounced the open­ing of the north­bound lanes in June.

Neil Walker, the agency’s Welling­ton high­ways man­ager, said resur­fac­ing of the city-bound lanes was now com­plete, and test­ing and cal­i­bra­tion of the smart mo­tor­way would con­tinue over the com­ing months.

Speeds on the mo­tor­way, which car­ries about 90,000 ve­hi­cles in and out of the cap­i­tal daily, will be set by hu­man op­er­a­tors un­til Me­tanet is ready to take over.

The over­head elec­tronic signs would show ‘‘smart mo­tor­way mes­sages’’ urg­ing driv­ers to merge like a zip, stick to their lanes, and fol­low the signs, Walker said.

The nor­mal 100kmh speed limit would ap­ply to the mo­tor­way out­side of peak times.

Agency spokes­woman Felic­ity Con­nell said mo­torists would not be com­pelled to ac­ti­vate blue­tooth on their smart de­vices to help pro­vide in­for­ma­tion for Me­tanet.

Thou­sands of peo­ple al­ready trav­elled daily with that func­tion switched on, which was enough to gather ‘‘robust data’’ to man­age the smart mo­tor­way, she said.

The smart mo­tor­way aims to keep ve­hi­cles run­ning smoothly and avoid con­ges­tion-caus­ing shock­waves – such as when cars stop sud­denly – at the con­ver­gence point for State High­ways 1 and 2.

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