Australia seen on the march with intelligent transport

Report distils views and forecasts from Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress held here

Australia seen on the march with intelligent transport
ITS Australia CEO Susan Harris president Brian Negus launch Smart Transport for Australia


Australia is well placed to take advantage of intelligent transport systems (ITS) to boost freight transport efficiency, according to ITS Australia’s Smart Transport for Australia report.

A series of physical, regulatory and attitudinal circumstances means the country has a head-start, the report, which leverages off last year’s Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) World Congress in Melbourne, states.

"The Australian transport industry has had a significant involvement in the early implementation of ITS, driven by a competitive and technologically sophisticated industry and supported by coordinating bodies including the National Transport Commission (NTC), the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR) and Transport Certification Australia (TCA)," it says.

"Heavy vehicle national law provides a basis for national implementation of modern logistics management, relying on telematics to provide information on vehicles, drivers and loads as well as other chain-of-responsibility roles in the supply chain.

"The freight sector in Australia has been a leader in ITS adoption.

"Significant ITS initiatives are in progress and many of the key elements of a regulatory and compliance framework exist. In many respects, the Australian freight sector is adopting ITS more quickly than is the case for light vehicles, perhaps because of the commercial advantages that ITS provides and the resulting financial and competitive incentive for users to invest in the required technology.

"Some developments in freight infrastructure are not direct elements of ITS but facilitate or leverage what it can enable.

"For instance, the development of inland ports and large distribution centres, a feature of the Australian logistics supply chain for some years, are both supported by in-vehicle, roadside and other infrastructure as well as software exploiting connected data sets.

"ITS considerably magnifies the benefits these sites can deliver."

Gains to be had

Benefits for freight planning, management and operation being pursued by the freight sector and the ITS industry, often with government help, ae sid to include:

  • reducing congestion at loading, unloading and transhipment points, thereby reducing operator costs and maximising infrastructure utilisation
  • improving the fuel efficiency of freight vehicles through connected ITS, reducing environmental impacts and reducing operator costs
  • enabling booked and integrated trip scheduling for ‘last mile’ distribution together with the aggregation of deliveries (especially for retail) at consolidation points outside activity centres, reducing traffic volumes and costs
  • reducing empty vehicle movements through better planning based on actual and predictive data, thereby increasing efficiency
  • reducing labour costs and addressing emerging shortages of heavy vehicle drivers through automated, driverless trucks
  • optimising routes, reducing distances and/or times travelled, and better exploiting low congestion (off peak) times for travel, creating operator savings and better infrastructure utilisation
  • enforcing route compliance by heavy vehicles, protecting infrastructure such as bridges and reducing long term network maintenance costs
  • targeted monitoring of specific freight types, particularly including dangerous goods
  • tracing and tracking of goods, placing new pressure on supply chain performance through transparency.

ITS president Brian Negus says Smart Transport for Australia has significant implications for the country.

"We are in a unique position to harness technology to enhance the liveability of our cities and communities," Negus says.

"Australia is a global leader in transport technology and an early adopter of innovation and initiatives.

"Utilising technology and real time data, in a shared and open environment, provides an opportunity to improve safety, reduce congestion and pollution on our networks, and increase mobility."

High acceptance

ITS Australia CEO Susan Harris points to the nation’s quick response to automated vehicle developments overseas as proof of its acceptance of ITS’s value.

"The benefits for Australia are clearly recognised with nearly every Australian state currently trialling a connected and automated vehicle initiative, including highly automated vehicles and driverless shuttle buses providing last mile solutions.

"Mobility as a Service, Big Data, the Internet of Things, national harmonisation of legislation and future funding models are among the myriad ideas being pursued to improve connectivity and mobility for freight, public and private transport users.

"What is exciting is that while we have come a long way, there is still a lot more to come."   

According to that report, part of that path will involve continued government coordination as technology developers work with transport firms for proprietary solutions for specific customers as well as industry wide solutions integrating with other business operations systems.

Both infrastructure operators and industry have an interest in an integration of transport information and planning to improve individual and overall industry efficiency.

"The financial benefits are considerable given the cost and volume of freight movement so it is quite likely that this area will see significant investment in the next few years, the report forecasts.

"Modal integration extends this opportunity as supply chain visibility makes it easier to plan and deliver multi modal journeys – particularly integrating rail and road movement of freight.

"Trans-shipment points will need to be supported by technology-based physical and software infrastructure."

Though on-road automation appears still some way off, the expectation in concrete that it will happen despite serious challenges.

"Opportunities are beginning to arise for the implementation of solutions involving the automation of the driving task for freight vehicles," the report says.

"While initially concentrated in off-road environments, this technology will move to roads with progressive extension of the automation over time.

"Significant opportunities will exist for implementation and support, as well as development where this is needed to respond to Australian conditions."

The full report can be found here.

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