News - 26th ARRB Conference asks: The biggest challenge facing the road industry: politics?

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Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories

26th ARRB Conference asks: The biggest challenge facing the road industry: politics?

Thierry Goger, FEHRL Secretary General and Birgitta Sandstedt of VTI speak at 26th ARRB Conference.


The demands of an aging road network coupled with increasing traffic are putting consistent pressure on resources; as such, the imperative to explore new ways to manage and keep up with demand for the development of safer, more cost effective and resilient road infrastructure has never been stronger.

 In a period of rapidly advancing innovation in road infrastructure, how can road agencies and researchers meet the appetite for knowledge development with an ever-diminishing pool of funds with which to do so? With advances in road engineering and technology rapidly accelerating, the need for efficiency and innovation in road research is vital.

Australian and international leading minds in road research and technology came together for the 26th ARRB Conference from 20-24th October 2014 to explore the issues and opportunities in funding and innovation currently challenging governments, road researchers, operational engineers and road agencies. An important fixture on the road industry's calendar, the conference delved into three key topics significantly impacting on the future of the sector:

  • driverless cars,
  • big data, and
  • using a research-based approach to achieving more with less funding.
Driverless cars: getting future ready
The advent of driverless cars has begun, but while it appears that we are hastening to a Jetsons-like scenario, the reality is our roads are not ready to accommodate automated vehicles. Managing Director of ARRB Group, Gerard Waldron, maintains that there is a great deal of funding needed, smart work and cooperation required to pave the way for driverless cars in Australia, particularly in technological development and within Government to establish and amend legislation for these vehicles.
“Investing heavily in research and development within engineering and high tech manufacturing in Australia is imperative to ensure there is a positive future for driverless cars in this country. There has never been greater need for Australian researchers to attract funding for these developments to occur.”
The uses for big data
Parallel to driverless cars, one of the most widely discussed trends in IT recently is the role of big data, and within the road industry, exploring the ways it can be used to examine and enhance the performance of our road networks. Birgitta Sandstedt of VTI provided an excellent keynote presentation covering Data: Big, Open and Managed for All. The next iteration of road data which will significantly impact transport planning and policy is the collection and sharing of end-to-end probe data, enabling the visualisation of traffic network operations and performance. The applications for the technology were shown at the ARRB Conference to be far-reaching, moving from everyday drivers tracking accidents and roadworks, to government and road agencies using data to plan networks and develop effective road policies.
Doing more with less
What binds these two burgeoning technologies is the need for implementation with limited funding. As demands on the network and expectations for innovation continue to soar, delegates spoke of the need to consistently do more with less as road agencies remain chronically underfunded. The need to consult research and evidence to make wise project funding decisions will help agencies to meet the demands of network growth, the challenge of improving road safety, tackling maintenance requirements and improving network operations with driverless cars and big data in mind. The rapid development of transport technology will continue to challenge Governments and agencies to cooperate as the cost of upgrades and the expert assistance required for these new technologies, therefore it is imperative that these challenges are allowed for in other operational areas. Of particular note at the Conference was an informative presentation by Dr Thierry Goger, FEHRL Secretary General on European experiences and research framed within the Forever Open Roads (FOR) concept.

The key opportunities and challenges facing stakeholders within the roads industry are obstacles that require collaboration to overcome. The greatest challenge roads will face in the coming decades is politics. To ensure Australia is driverless car ready and can use big data to its full potential with limited funding, the industry must turn to empirically driven decision making and cooperation across lines to put the future of the country’s road network and the nation’s accessibility first.

Birgitta Sandstedt of VTI

Thierry Goger, FEHRL Secretary General


Venue for the ARRB conference: ANZ Stadium at Sydney Olympic Park





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