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Something I had wanted to go and see for myself but haven’t had chance to until today when I attended Traffex are the dynamic traffic signs in Coventry produced by Swarco.
In a previous job, we were considering these for strategic points on the network but funding proved difficult. This will, for now at least, be the major stumbling block for many areas wishing to use such systems as part of their ITS arsenal. In the end, we considered looking at more typical VMS units rather than the full colour Swarco type units. I designed the concept shown below;
Whilst the above solution is basic and does the job in most respects, the Swarco signs themselves are, in my view, a work of art. They can display many colours, and for that reason they can emulate direction signs. Now this is important; I believe that the future of traffic management relies on dynamic signs and roads rather than driver-less vehicles. Call me a Luddite, but the technology for automated vehicles just seems to raise more questions than it solves. Dynamic signs don’t require you to purchase a brand new car or similar. Knowledge is power when using the road network, and dynamic signs are the fastest way to provide that. They also, with the advances in LED technology, are going to be suitable for widespread use far quicker than driver-less cars and automated journey plans.
A demo sign at Traffex, showing the various colour combinations the signs can show.
Coventry, a city with many radial routes and a ring road that intimidates even the most confident of road enthusiasts (CBRD), decided that dynamic parking guidance could be mixed with dynamic direction signs. As the image below shows, the permanent direction signs on the Coventry Ring Road do leave a bit to be desired, so dynamic signs may have been a bit of a gamble. However, I am pleased to say the gamble has paid off.
I’ll let the following images speak for themselves; but the general gist is simple – dynamic signs that can be modified in real time from a control centre, that aren’t restricted to a fixed number of messages like prism signs, are a good invention. Whilst they can’t possibly be expected to replace all direction signs, where ring roads and alternative routes around urban areas are concerned their use must surely be nothing but beneficial.
What is going on with those cover-plates?
Coventry is not the only city to have such signs. However, their system is one of the more comprehensive examples, plus it gave me an excuse to use the Ring Road.
Routes like the M60 could really benefit from a similar system; for instance a journey from the M61 to Stockport can be made by going either way around the M60, but there is nothing to advise you of this; all traffic is routed over the Barton High Level Bridge regardless of traffic conditions on that route.
I can keep my hopes up that despite regular cuts to funding for traffic signs that the development of ITS and dynamic signs is not ultimately affected by this. After all, isn’t “informed travellers” a critical component of current day thinking in traffic engineering?