Australia trials shortened cost benefit evaluation

Australia trials shortened cost benefit evaluation

A shortened and tailored cost-benefit assessment is helping show the worth of C-ITS in Australia.

In Australian ‘rapid cost-benefit assessment’ method, introduced to help prepare the ground for co-operative ITS (C-ITS) deployment, and showcased at the ITS World Congress in Melbourne, has generated encouraging results. Developed for the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads, it shows the benefit-cost ratio (BCR) of a moderate level of penetration of C-ITS over a 30-year period as 3.9 with a net present value of AU$1.9bn (US$1.43bn).

These, and other outcomes, have demonstrated the clear value that the department was looking for to justify investing in a major C-ITS pre-deployment and research programme, with field tests as a key component. The ‘Plan for Intelligent Transport Systems in Queensland’ was released in March 2015 and stressed central policy roles for cooperative vehicles and automation, and highlighted the need for large-scale trials.

The programme is based in South East Queensland – the state’s most populous and developed region. It will pave the way for the introduction of C-ITS – as well as cooperative automated vehicle (CAV) technologies, at a later stage only on its home ground but across Australia.

The department says it is responding to already evident levels of global interest and investment, and leveraging ‘the advanced starting point afforded by international efforts to date’. These pilots will address, what it describes as, the state’s lack of readiness when compared with other developed economies.

May 2016 saw the official approval of an intensively-researched business case and the programme is now running over a five-year span from mid-2016, with field tests that will involve some 1,000 drivers getting under way in 2018.

The rapid assessment method involves the evaluation of the likely benefits and costs over a 30-year operational period from 2021 to 2050, under three scenarios reflecting differing levels of C-ITS penetration in the Australian vehicle fleet – pessimistic, moderate and optimistic (see figure 1). Under all conditions, the exercise predicts C-ITS will deliver worthwhile net social benefits and even in the pessimistic scenario the BCR is still positive at 2.1.

There are a number of factors that influence C-ITS penetration rates, and the department recognises the need for these to be taken into account in any realistic CBA process. One is the presence, or time taken to emerge, of international governmental and industry mandates (within five years in the optimistic scenario; longer in the moderate one).

Another is the completeness or otherwise of available standards. A third is the existence, or otherwise, of consumer interest in taking-up the technology. The rapid CBA contrasts the proposed investment in C-ITS with a base case, representing the situation that would be likely to occur if C-ITS were not to be implemented and including the costs of continued investment in relevant areas of traffic management and road safety. This case incorporates forecasts of future traffic conditions using the Brisbane Strategic Transport Model, which covers the South East Queensland region, including its capital.

This uses calculations of vehicle distance and hours of travel and average speeds as well as the composition of traffic in terms of passenger and freight vehicles, to enable estimations of travel time, the incidence of crashes, fuel consumption and emissions.
The rapid CBA focuses strongly on C-ITS use-case applications within the road safety sector, pointing to, among other benefits, an anticipated 20% reduction in numbers of crashes. Additional research has also indicated the potential for large savings in insurance settlements.

The state’s Motor Accident Insurance Commission has analysed the likely impacts of C-ITS on the Queensland compulsory third-party scheme for drivers. Over a 30-year period, it calculates that a pessimistic level of C-ITS penetration will save this scheme some A$170 million (US$128million); while an optimistic level boosts the figure to AU$1.1bn (US$0.83bn).
The main pilot will test a range of beneficial C-ITS-based safety applications as defined in EU and US practice including:

  • Early roadworks warning
  • In-vehicle warning of local or continuous speed restrictions
  • Back-of-queue early warning of a traffic jam ahead
  • Emergency electronic brake light warning that some vehicles ahead are braking sharply
  • Stopped/slow vehicle ahead warning
  • Intersection movement and turn assistance

In a second pilot, the Australian ITS industry is being invited to suggest and develop a range of Queensland-centric vulnerable road user (VRU) safety applications that can be tested. The department is creating a dedicated public-road testbed in South East Queensland where up to 500 passenger vehicles and VRUs will be retrofitted with aftermarket C-ITS equipment.
Queensland’s principal engineer Dr Miranda Blogg, outlined the proposed C-ITS pilots at the ITS World Congress in a session organised by the International Benefits Evaluation Community (IBEC).

Up -front costs Pilot 24.6 (18.5) 24.6(18.5) 24.6(18.5)
Central ITS 11.1 (8.3) 15.6 (11.7) 17.5 (13.1)
Roadside ITS 21.3 (16.0) 21.3 (16.0) 21.3 (16.0)
In-vehicle 71.8 (53.9) 328.9 (246.7) 442.2 (331.7)
SUB-TOTAL 128.8 (96.6) 390.4 (292.9) 505.6 (379.3)
Ongoing Costs Central ITS 21.2 (15.9) 25.9 (19.4) 25.9 (19.4)
Roadside ITS 63.3 (47.5) 78.6 (59.0) 78.6 (59.0)
In-Vehicle 62.3 (46.7) 295.7 (221.8) 432.7 (324,5)
SUB-TOTAL 146.8 (110.1) 400.2 (300.2) 537.2 (402.9)
TOTAL 275.6 (206.7) 790.6 (593.0) 1042.9 (782.2)
Benefits Crash savings 399.6 (299.7) 1878.1 (1408.6) 2754.5 (2065.9)
Crash delays 17.4 (13.1) 82.0 (61.5) 104.8 (78.6)
Fuel savings 94.8 (71.1) 448.3 (336.2) 656.2 (492.2)
Emissions 63.8 (47.9) 298.2 (223.7) 438.1 (328.6)
TOTAL 575.7 (431.8) 2706.6 (2030.0) 3953.5 (2965.3)
Results NPV 300.1 (225.1) 1916.0 (1437.0) 2910.7 (2183.0
BCR 2.1 3.4 3.8
NPV/I 1.1 2.4 2.8

In his contribution, Dr Alan Stevens, chief scientist and research director of European transport consultancy TRL, described an impact evaluation approach based on the UK government-planned connected ITS Corridor and for instrumentation by 2018. The technique, he said, is also relevant to C-ITS, where evaluation can be particularly challenging for a number of reasons, including overlaps with existing technologies. One example is warnings about heavy traffic and roadworks which are currently displayed to drivers via variable message signs but can be delivered directly into receptive vehicles using C-ITS.

A second complication is that applications can be clustered in different ways: by technology (particularly the case with communications), category (road safety/traveller information…), geographic context or road type.

Thirdly, advice derived from on-board sensors can be delivered to other drivers in more than one way. For example, a ‘slippery road’ warning can be transmitted by V2V along a line of following vehicles; using V2I for retransmission to individual vehicles using digital communications or radio; or V2I for display on variable message signs. Stevens also noted the need to consider trade-offs such as drivers slowing down at roadworks will reduce the risk of collisions but increase overall journey times.

US-based consultant Richard Bishop described the US Department of Transport’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration new guidelines for highly-automated vehicle pilots as “overtly positive”. These apply to buses, trucks and cars as well as to vehicle operators and developers; but he questioned how far they will influence public confidence in the technology.

In a move that may interest countries that operate on a federal basis, the USDoT has also issued a model state policy to avoid the risk of a patchwork system of administrative rules that could impede interstate travel for highly-automated vehicles. It wants to see a ‘nimble and orderly’ process for deployment.

Satu Innamaa from Finnish technical research centre VTT, reported on the evaluation of the NordicWay C-ITS corridor, which involves 2,000 participants. The services, including those related to roadworks, weather and hazards ahead, are all being delivered via an app through cellular radio. Full results are expected in September 2017 but initial questionnaire evaluations are positive, with most respondents finding the app useful and increasing their attention on the road ahead.

Road charging
In an IBEC session on road charging, Andrew Hyles, the director of transport and economic reform with the Australian Government’s Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development, highlighted the lack of price signals in the country’s current model for road service provision. This meant, he said,  that decisions being made on investment and maintenance were not currently “responsive to demand”.

In his contribution Steven Newman, the CEO of New Zealand’s Eroad (which claims to be the world’s first GPS-based road user tolling system), referenced recent benefit analysis on electronic road user charging. This not only highlighted direct gains (primarily for heavy vehicle reporting) but also downstream benefits including the substantiation of road investments and demonstration of forecast cost savings.

Giving a US perspective, Malcolm Dougherty, director of the California Department of Transportation, reported the results of a recent California Road Charge Pilot Program Evaluation. This has now entered the third of a four-phase initiative, consisting of a live pilot and concurrent independent evaluations. 

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