What are Smart Freeways?

The Kwinana Freeway heading into the City of Perth has experienced more traffic congestion in recent years, causing an increase in emergency response times and commute travel times for motorists.

Fortunately, a new freeway system is in the works to address these problems and speed up emergency response and commute times. The system is called a smart freeway and has be constructed on 13 kilometres of the Kwinana Freeway.

An Overview of a Smart Freeway

We’ve all heard about smart technology, such as smartphones and smart houses. But what about smart freeways?

Well, a smart freeway is like a technologically enhanced version of a standard freeway because they have intelligent transport systems installed on its roads. An intelligent transport system consists of various traffic monitoring devices, such as in-road sensors, CCTV cameras, and detection radar devices.

Together, these intelligent technologies monitor traffic conditions on the freeway and report any real-time changes to these conditions. That way, local authorities will know the best times to change speed limits, activate ramp signals to merge heavy traffic and close and open lanes.

Therefore, an intelligent transport system can reduce traffic congestion and improve traffic flow so that motorists can travel faster and receive emergency assistance without waiting too long.

Why Does the Kwinana Freeway Need a Smart Upgrade?

An increasing volume of cars and trucks are coming into Kwinana Freeway from Canning Highway every day, especially in the mornings. It has gotten to the point where the freeway cannot handle the daily influx of traffic because it is simply not big enough.

In some cases, it causes numerous motorists to get stuck in “stop & start traffic” for as long as 2 hours. On average, a person travelling the entire distance of the Kwinana Freeway will spend an extra 32 minutes in traffic during their morning commute.

Therefore, expanding the Kwinana Freeway with a smart upgrade could significantly reduce people’s commute times and allow traffic conditions to be monitored and managed better.

Do Smart Freeways Exist Already?

Yes, smart freeways have already been constructed in the United States, the United Kingdom, and several countries in Europe and Asia. Eastern states in Australia have also begun building them also so it is only a matter of time before smart freeways are found in every major state and country worldwide.

Which Changes to the Kwinana Freeway will be Noticeable?

The changes made for this new system include the following:

  • New electronic overhead signs have been installed to open and close lanes when necessary. The signs also indicate any temporary speed limit change during emergency response incidents.
  • New electronic message boards have been installed to give the latest information about road and travel conditions to motorists approaching these roads.
  • New traffic lights have been installed at certain on-ramps to manage traffic flow better and simplify the merging of traffic onto the freeway, so it is safer.
  • New incident detection systems have been installed to detect whenever a vehicle has stopped or become immobile on the Kwinana Freeway or in one of the six emergency stopping bays.
  • A new lane was added between the Narrows Bridge and Canning Highway, which used to have three lanes and one emergency lane. Now the emergency lane is gone, and a new traffic lane has replaced it, creating four traffic lanes. As a result, the Kwinana Freeway has a larger traffic capacity to handle more cars and trucks during people’s morning commutes.

The only challenge for people is finding a place to pull over when their vehicles suffer mechanical issues since the emergency lane is now gone. However, the new monitoring systems installed will make it easier for motorists with emergencies to receive fast assistance.

The benefits certainly outweigh the cons. The new smart freeway system will speed up commutes, reduce congested traffic, and make motorists’ lives a little bit easier in the morning while travelling on the Kwinana Freeway.

Tips on How to Handle a Breakdown without an Emergency Lane

The emergency lane has indeed been removed on the Kwinana Freeway. Fortunately, six emergency-stopping bays have been added to the freeway as a solution for motorists dealing with breakdown emergencies. Motorists are encouraged to pull in to the nearest available stopping bay as carefully and safely as possible.

An emergency phone is available at each emergency stopping bay on the freeway. Stranded motorists can use the emergency phone to contact the operations centre. Of course, you can also use your own smartphone to call them by dialling 138 138. The centre staff members monitor the emergency stopping bays 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. So, no matter what time of day or night you have broken down, someone will be at the operations centre to assist you through this stressful and difficult experience.

Overheating Vehicle

What If There is No Emergency Stopping Bay Nearby?

Emergency stopping bays are convenient if you’re fortunate to break down near one. Unfortunately, your vehicle may break down while travelling on a live lane far away from an emergency stopping bay.

The good news is that the new smart freeway system was designed to handle these situations intelligently and safely. Since the Intelligent Transport System is equipped with technology that lets it detect broken down vehicles on the smart freeway, it will be able to detect your breakdown.

The electronic overhead sign will activate to close the lane where you broke down. It will display an “X” symbol to indicate to other motorists that your lane is off-limits because of an emergency situation. That way, you don’t need to worry about an influx of traffic accumulating in your lane while dealing with the breakdown.

Meanwhile, the speed limits on the adjacent lanes will be reduced automatically to maintain the safety of you and other vehicles on the road. The electronic signs will display new temporary speed limits that motorists will be expected to follow as you handle your breakdown crisis. If you’ve ever been to the Graham Farmer Freeway, you’ve probably seen similar technology get used.

Please turn on your hazard lights and remain in your vehicle if you have to pull into a traffic lane. Keep your seatbelt strapped to your body and wait for help to arrive. The Intelligent Transport System shouldn’t take long to detect your broken-down vehicle and activate a Main Roads Incident Response.

When the response team arrives at the area of the lane where you are stranded, they will attempt to tow your vehicle away from the lane to the nearest emergency stopping bay. Sometimes, it may be safer to get your vehicle towed off the smart freeway entirely if you’re near an exit ramp. It all depends on the location where you were stranded and the severity of the situation.

If your vehicle got moved/pushed to the emergency stopping bay, you can use the phone to contact Executive Towing Services to request an emergency roadside towing service immediately.

How Does the Smart Freeway System Impact Roadside Assistance?

Roadside assistance will still be able to respond to emergency calls just as quickly as before. However, the big difference is that the previous emergency lane has been removed from the freeway, so when the roadside technician arrives at your location on the freeway, they won’t be able to pull over to a safe area to assist you and your vehicle.

Contact the Main Roads Operation Line first. They will move you and your vehicle away from the freeway to a safer location. After that, you can contact Executive Towing Services on 0410 471 056 to request emergency towing assistance for your vehicle.