Every Government, Council and agency aims for integrated transport solutions. They want to create strategies to provide efficient traffic and road safety systems and build the reliability of roads.
The New South Wales (NSW) Government wants the same for their people. They come up with different plans for integrated transport solutions. One of them is making clearways clear. Led by Transport for NSW (TfNSW), they tasked the community to develop a Clearway Management System that will make clearways free from obstruction.
Clearways are sections of the roads where road-users and vehicles are not allowed to park. It is also prohibited for bystanders to occupy. Clearway hours are set also for special events to avoid traffic congestion. Only public transport such as buses, taxis and emergency vehicles have designated lanes. They can stop or park as long as there is no significant delays or long queues.
TfNSW coordinated with the Traffic Management Centre (TMC) and tow truck contractors. They keep the road clear and safe for road users and the public in general. Clearway restrictions help them regulate traffic, especially during peak hours. TMC ensures that road users maximise all lanes. TMC wants contractors to tow parked or broken-down vehicles immediately.
Police authorities and State Transit Authority (STA) support the agenda of TfNSW. They help in monitoring designated clearways under their jurisdictions.
Generally, Clearway Strategies are in place, but there are still areas for improvement. Awareness and compliance of road users with its Clearway rules and regulations are vital.
Road users and drivers who have parked before the clearways hours may not be aware of the scheduled clearway restrictions.
Most reports of clearway violations are from STA, police authorities and tow truck contractors. According to Clearway Towing (CWT) data, only 5% of reports came from the general public.
The police and tow truck contractors drive by clearways for surveillance. They do check at the start of every clearway hours. If they see some violations, they will call the TMC Hotline. They directly report the incident to TMC before towing.
The common public may be the informant and call the TMC Hotline to file the incident report on clearway violations. This process may be tedious for them.
They need to call the TMC hotline to file an incident report. The caller will describe the clearway, location, and details of the vehicle. TMC will then call an authorised tow truck contractor. The contractor will call back to TMC to disclose the new location of the towed vehicle.
Some drivers are not aware of the clearway restrictions and still park their car during clearways hours. Most of the time, those drivers thought their vehicle was stolen instead of being towed. Once they know that they violated the clearway restrictions, they have to coordinate with TMC. They will check the location of their towed car and the penalties that they incurred. Then they have to settle the fines with the Department of Finance.
The NSW Government and TfNSW acknowledged these challenges.
In 2018, TfNSW launched the Clearway Innovation Challange. They called on innovators, developers and entrepreneurs to help them improve the clearway regulations and keep the clearways clear.
The goal is to develop an innovative Clearway Management System. A digital product to lessen time-consuming procedures and limit human- errors. A solution that is extensible for diagnosis to improve awareness of clearway restrictions.
ClearwayTech highlights the capability of the solution to automatically identify and report stationary vehicles in the clearways. Machine Learning algorithms and artificial intelligence reduce detection time.
ClearwayTech aims to help the NSW Government improve its clearway strategies. Integration of the solution was coordinated with TfNSW, TMC, tow truck contractors and local transport management centres.
The software-only solution, DDD (Detect, Dispatch, Diagnose) has the following objectives:
With ClearwayTech’s DDD solutions, there are more options for a stationary vehicle to be reported.
As a digital version of the manual process, informants can use the app or mobile site. Someone can call the Traffic Management Centre and vital information will be secured into DDD or someone can hop on the smartphone-optimised website and enter it into DDD. The platform immediately notifies the local transport management centre and swift action can be taken to keep the roads clear.
When a driver parks in a clearway, it should be determined if it is within operating hours of the clearway or not. When the parked vehicle is discovered and it is creating an obstruction, the public can make use of the app or mobile site to report the incident.
As an automated software solution, clearways obstructions can be automatically detected through nearby traffic counters, cameras, and machine learning. DDD can automatically check RMS DRIVES. The system can check if vehicles are involved in crimes or not.
DDD sends SMS to alert the police and caution any designated tow truck contractors if vehicles are involved in crimes. DDD will remind contractors not to tow the vehicle or approach the driver for their safety. If the vehicle is clear of any involvement in crimes, the designated tow truck contractor will receive an SMS with a link. They can open the link on their smartphone to accept the tow, add vehicle details, and enter the drop-off location.
The process will enable TMC to dispatch and clear the obstruction without waiting for a human-based report from the hotline. Thus, human-error could be avoided. Drivers can also call the TMC (as per the current process) who can look up the location of their vehicles in the DDD platform.
Front-end systems are implemented as smartphone-optimised web interfaces. Any back-end systems requiring access to data is designed securely, such as, to run within the TMC network.
To protect the owner’s privacy, RMS will not provide the owner’s phone number or email address in the system. Instead, RMS will receive a message about the towing details from the DDD platform. RMS will then deliver the message to the owner. The message from RMS contains a link to a webpage on the DDD platform where the owner can get the vehicle’s location.
The DDD system will not have direct access to the owner information and their vehicle registration details.
For data privacy, TfNSW will not provide contact details, email address or vehicle registration details in the system. Instead, TMC will receive a message about the towing details from the DDD platform. The TMC network will then deliver the message to the owner. The message from TMC contains a link to a webpage on the DDD platform where the owner can get their vehicle’s location.
Drivers/owners are notified by SMS with a link which they can open on their smartphone. The platform can disclose the amount of penalty to the drivers or owners of the vehicles. They can pay the fine online and get updates on the new location of their towed vehicles. Drivers and owners can also enter the web interface and retrieve the location and details of their clearway violations.
To support the goal of TfNSW and TMC to address key issues on drivers and road-users awareness of clearway rules and regulations, DDD gathers relevant data and information from drivers and owners of the vehicles.
Drivers need to “unlock” the location of their vehicles. They must enter an “excuse” of why their vehicle was stationary in a clearway. They need to provide the reason why they parked in a clearway.
Within the process, reasons or excuses aside from the locations, date, time, and other relevant information will help TfNSW and TMC to test drivers’ awareness and compliance of clearway policies. Necessary adjustments, based on the findings, can be made to improve the clearway rules and regulations. TfNSW can enhance information dissemination to lessen incidents and repeated violations of road users and drivers.
DDD can recommend parking locations using available data. The time between reporting and towing can be analysed to identify the clearways/lanes with the most impact.
The evaluation of the relevant data is key to enhance the Clearway Management System in general. TfNSW can bridge the gap between their clearway strategies and areas for improvement among agency partners.
ClearwayTech, in cooperation with TfNSW and TMC, conducted in-depth research, study and evaluation of the impact of the DDD Solution throughout its integration since 2018.