Are Australian roads ready for automated vehicles?

Adding edge lines, lane lines and centrelines; ensuring lines have good contrast; and revising electronic speed signs are some of the recommendations to prepare Australian roads for automated vehicles outlined in a series of new Austroads reports. 

Austroads has released a series of reports that examine the readiness of Australian and New Zealand highways and freeways to support automated vehicles. 

The reports follow on from previous work by Austroads and other agencies which studied how well automated vehicles could read existing line marking and road signs.

Program Manager, Future Vehicles and Technology, Austroads, John Wall, said the project involved an extensive road audit that assessed how well vehicle machine vision systems could interpret more than eight million line segments and 8,000 signs on a 25,000km sample of the Australasian road network.

“This followed on from a review of available literature and engaging with local and international industry stakeholders to become better informed on the latest technology and standards for automated vehicles worldwide.

“We also interviewed road agencies and found the single most important factor preventing them from updating detailed asset standards to reflect the needs of automated vehicles was the lack of clear guidance.

“Data captured from vehicle sensors was also examined to consider whether it could supplement some asset condition information road agencies collect.”

Detailed project actions, specifications and findings have been documented in five reports, with recommendations including:

  • Adding edge lines, lane lines and centrelines to roads that do not have them
  • Ensuring these lines have good contrast with the road surface and are regularly maintained
  • Revising electronic speed signs so they can be easily interpreted by machine vision systems.

Initial guidance on thresholds for line marking width and reflectivity, and sign maintenance, has also been provided to assist road agencies when they update their asset standards.

“We found that most freeways and highways of Australia and New Zealand can support Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) such as lane-keeping assistance, particularly when there are high quality lines,” Mr Wall said.

“Achieving readiness for more highly automated driving will require a combination of smarter vehicles, changes to infrastructure, and improved infrastructure operations and maintenance practices.”

Vehicle automation on highways is expected to lead to improved road safety and significantly reduced risk of accidents, vehicle emissions and driver workload.

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