Road safety benefits from collaborative innovation

Posted by on 29 June 2017 at 09:00

Associate Minister of Transport Tim Macindoe has seen first-hand today how innovative weather technology is being used to help keep our roads safe.

“New Zealand’s mountainous terrain means roads serving many towns and tourist destinations have the potential to be seriously impacted every winter by the effects of snow, ice and heavy rain,” says Mr Macindoe.

As a state-owned enterprise whose commercial activities help fund and develop New Zealand’s weather forecasting, MetService is leading the world in the use of disruptive technology to change the way value is created from weather.

“I visited MetService this morning to see the positive impact that technology is having on our ability to keep roads open and safe year-round,” says Mr Macindoe.

“Investments in new weather-observing technology on key roads such as the Lindis Pass, the Desert Road and the Kaimai Range are being supplemented with data from mobile sensors, mounted on Fulton Hogan and Downer vehicles, to enhance MetService’s road-weather modelling system.”

This award-winning system, developed in 2010 in collaboration with the NZ Transport Agency, was relaunched recently with new high-resolution road weather forecasts based on MetService’s forecasting services and a host of additional weather and road information.

Mr Macindoe says that by identifying potentially treacherous areas in the road network, particularly along major routes through alpine areas, the system enables road maintenance contractors to work more efficiently and effectively – resulting in safer roads for all road users.

The system also employs visibility and rain sensors along SH29 in the Kaimai Range to notify Transport Agency operations staff when to alter variable message signs and 22 high-tech variable speed signs, warning road users to slow down when road conditions fall below agreed criteria.

One of MetService’s longest-standing road safety collaborations, dating back to 1983, is also benefiting from recently-expanded weather services. The Milford Road Alliance is a partnership between the NZ Transport Agency and Downer to manage the safety of State Highway 94 between Te Anau and Milford Sound, one of New Zealand’s most visited tourist destinations.

For the 2017 winter season, new and enhanced forecast services for the Alliance’s avalanche control programme include severe weather threat matrices and animated rainfall, snow and cloud ceiling forecast maps. Site-specific rainfall and temperature probability forecasts complete the picture, along with significant improvements to the distribution and communication of data and forecasts.

“These initiatives are all at the leading-edge of road safety management internationally. They are proof of New Zealand’s ability to deliver a safer transport system through the combination of expertise, collaborative innovation and utilising technological advancements,” Mr Macindoe says.