Claims and counterclaims on Stopped Vehicle Detection

29/01/2020
Chris Ames

Highways England has re-opened the debate over the effectiveness of its current stopped vehicle detection (SVD) technology, claiming that it is ‘effective in all levels of traffic’.

The government-owned company made the claim in a statement it issued in response to ‘recent commentary about smart motorways’.

However, the statement contradicts both a recent letter to a coroner from Highways England’s chief engineer and recent statements to Highways.

In December, Mike Wilson wrote to Emma Brown, area coroner for Birmingham and Solihull, following an inquest into the case of eight-year-old Dev Naran, who died when the stationary car in which he was a passenger was hit on the M6 at a time when the hard shoulder was being uses as a live lane.

Mr Wilson described Highways England’s radar-based SVD system, which is in use on two sections of the M25 and being retrofitted to the M3, as ‘a radar system which detects stopped vehicles in low flow conditions’.

He told Ms Brown: ‘We are exploring other technologies which could reduce the risk to stopped vehicles in higher flow conditions’ but warned that ‘Highways England is unable at this time to set a timetable if and when this technology will be rolled out on the motorway network’.

Highways England has also acknowledged in correspondence with Highways that SVD does not work in conditions of high traffic flow.

Last week a spokesperson told Highways: ‘Recognising the risk to single stopped vehicles in low flow conditions on All Lane Running, we trialled and committed to roll out a stopped vehicle detection system specifically designed to mitigate the risk.’

The spokesperson added: ‘In higher flows MIDAS will take over.’

This is a reference to the Motorway Incident Detection and Automatic Signalling, which is in use across smart motorways and acts as a proxy for a system by detecting slow moving traffic. Reliance on this system has been criticised as it may only work once traffic is already effectively stationary, possibly because the stopped vehicle has already been hit.

In October, Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told the Transport Select Committee that SVD ‘works’, but said: ‘we are rolling out stopped vehicle detection. It is challenging because radar is designed to ignore stationary things and detect things that are moving. To have a radar system that can see that something has stopped moving is a challenge.

‘The MIDAS system already detects slowing traffic, so that, if you break down and traffic starts to slow behind you, there are automatic signs and signals, but we are now starting to roll out stopped vehicle detection. It is not without its challenges. Indeed, we are looking to other technologies in the future and what might be out there to help.’

Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA told Highways; 'There is a clear overreliance of technology on "smart" motorways, which by Highways England’s own admissions falls short of its targets.

'Stopped Vehicle Detection provides too many false positives in high traffic conditions which overwhelms the control centres, and MIDAS can’t identify a stopped vehicle in low traffic. Before the rollout of these motorways a full suite of systems should have been tested and modified before being installed on every scheme.

'However, the simplest solution would be to double the number of Emergency Refuge Areas for all new and existing schemes. Giving drivers more chances to get out of a live lane would reduce the risk of stranded vehicles being struck by the following traffic.'

Highways jobs

Senior CIL and S106 Officer

£33,543 - £46,962
We are looking for an exceptional candidate to fill a Senior role within the Information and Planning Obligations Team. London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Vehicle Technician x2

£24,982 - £29,577 per annum
These positions are fixed term contracts for 12 months with the prospect of a permanent roles once the Class C Driving Licence has been obtained.  Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Highway Development Control Manager (Highways and Engineering)

£35,662 - £41-811 per annum
We are looking for an exceptional candidate who can work with internal and external clients to assess the transport and highways elements of... Calderdale, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council

Strategic Transport Planner

£39,880 – £41,881 per annum
The post holder will be tasked with delivering actions outlined in the key coporate strategies... Harrogate, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: Harrogate Borough Council

Chartered Structural Engineer

£48,000
We are looking to recruit an experienced Chartered Civil or Structural Engineer within the Infrastructure Asset Management Section of... Rhondda Cynon Taf
Recruiter: Rhondda Cynon Taff County Borough Council

Street Works Inspector

£24,982 - £27,041 per annum
For further information on the role please click. Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Sustainable Travel Delivery Specialist

£32,234 - £34,728 per annum
Are you passionate about Active Travel and Sustainable Transport? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Senior Projects Officer

£43,719 - £47,743 per annum
We are now looking for a Senior Projects Officer to join our busy Transport and Infrastructure team and support the delivery of a range of... Watford, Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Watford Borough Council

Chief Executive

Competitive Salary
In this unique role, leading the UK’s first sub-national transport body, you’ll draw on your understanding of... Manchester/Leeds (flexible)
Recruiter: Transport for the North

Head of Enforcement & Safety

£67,164 - £75,695
You will have responsibility for operational delivery of key services across the Borough, including... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Havering London Borough Council

Head of Outbreak Control (12-month FTC)

£67,164 - £75,695
You will need to demonstrate specific experience in working with the general public, including customer care initiatives such as London (Greater)
Recruiter: Havering London Borough Council

Head of Highways, Traffic and Parking

£67,164 - £75,695
As Head of Highways, Traffic and Parking, reporting into the Assistant Director for Highways and Environment, you will have responsibility for... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Havering London Borough Council

Assistant Director of Public Realm

£92,700 to £101,423
As Assistant Director of Public Realm you will provide the strategic direction for, and management of a range of services designed to ensure... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Havering London Borough Council

Senior Infrastructure Server Engineer (Senior Data Centre Engineer)

£41,952 - £48,663 per annum
The successful candidate will have a BSc in relevant discipline, or equivalent industry experience. Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Programme Officer (Transport)

£32,910 - £36,922
As a Senior Programme Officer for strategic transport, you will play a pivotal role in shaping the strategic direction of transport policy for... Northumberland
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

Transport Planner

£26,025 - £38,616 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Sustainable Transport Lead

£39,000- £45,000 per annum
Do you have experience in climate action and community led projects? Cirencester, Gloucestershire
Recruiter: Publica

Conservation Officer

£26,025 - £38,616 depending on skills
Do you have passion and enthusiasm for the historic built environment?  London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Project Manager - Waste Management

Up to £47389 per annum
Project Manager - Waste ManagementFixed Term, 24 monthsFull Time, 37 hours per weekUp to £47,389 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Programme Manager - Waste Management

£51510 - £62842 per annum
Programme Manager - Waste ManagementPermanent, Full TimeUp to £62,842 per annumLocation
Recruiter: Essex County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Highways Heroes Special

View the latest issue

Latest Video