Transurban Injects A$300,000 Into R&D For Smarter Australian Roads

Transurban has awarded A$100,000 (€68,000) grants to three pioneering research and development projects targeting safer and smarter Australian roads in the latest round of its Innovation Grants Program. CEO Scott Charlton said each of the successful research projects would trial local Australian technologies to address known safety or efficiency challenges affecting our nation’s busiest motorways.

“At Transurban, innovation is part of our culture. We’re continually pushing ourselves to find new ways to improve our road networks and operations,” Charlton said. “Through our annual Innovation Grants Program Transurban is partnering with some of the brightest minds in the country to take revolutionary ideas to the next level and harness emerging technologies to make our roads safer and more efficient.

“This year’s recipients are researching new materials and technology that could one day benefit the transport sector and community as a whole, with potential applications far broader than our own road networks.”

The successful 2017 Transurban Innovation Grant recipients and research projects are:

•    University of Melbourne — Research into a speed sensor with LED lights, which once attached to the road surface could provide real-time customised signals encouraging speeding drivers to slow down. “Speeding continues to be one of the leading causes of traffic crashes in Australia resulting in fatality or serious injury. We know the industry needs new, cost-effective technologies to reduce accidents on our roads, to increase spacing between travelling vehicles and to guide motorists to reduce speeds ahead of congested areas,” said University of Melbourne researcher Dr Ranjith Unnithan. With Transurban’s grant, we’ll be trialling a sensor-based system that gives real-time feedback to drivers to improve safety and customise their driving experience on the motorway.”

•    Imagine IM2— for a trial of a pressure sensor made from graphene that, when constructed into the motorway surface, would enable a ‘smarter’ road capable of reporting on traffic density, weight, volume and road surface condition. Imagine IM Head of R&D Dr Phil Aitchison said, “We’re excited to work with Transurban on this ground-breaking ‘smart road’ project. When applied to roads the smart sensing technology we’re developing will enable motorway operators to gain greater knowledge of traffic flows, communicate with smart vehicles and improve the user experience.”

•    Deakin University — the development of a high-energy absorbing overlay made of recycled plastic and textile fibres to cover roadside wire rope barriers, with the aim of reducing injury severity in crashes involving motorcyclists. Deakin University researcher Dr Jin Zhang said, “With Transurban’s support we’re trialling the development of low-cost, low environmental impact solution that could be retrofitted over existing roadside barriers at critical locations to provide a smooth flat surface that would spread impact forces and significantly improve safety outcomes for motorcyclists. Statistically motorcyclists have a far greater risk of life-threatening injuries in crashes compared to vehicle occupants, so we’re hoping our research could lead to a solution that one day reduces serious injuries and saves lives.”

The Transurban Innovation Grants Program is aligned to the company’s ‘Think Long Term’ sustainability pillar. Since the inception of the program in 2015, Transurban has engaged with world-class researchers and organisations to develop ideas to advance the transport industry and to improve safety for motorists.

Previous grant recipients have included the University of Newcastle for its work to develop a revolutionary, new material for road safety barriers and RMIT in Melbourne to trial cutting-edge technology to determine whether noise cancellation and transformation can create meaningful benefits for residents who live near motorway sound walls.

Grants of up to A$100,000 are available to support ideas requiring further research and investigation to determine their feasibility and application to real world challenges facing transport infrastructure. A new round of Innovation Grant applications will open in 2018.