Three Ways We Are Making Roads Safer Every Day

Meeting society’s vision to support roads that are safe for all road users requires government and industry to plan together – a process that has been met with new challenges with the introduction of disruptive transport technologies. At the same time, road user behaviours and motivations are complex and evolving and must be appropriately managed to make lasting change to road safety.

Here are some of the ways WSP has been playing a part in road safety planning, keeping community and user experience at the centre.


1. Visioning a Zero-Fatality Future

Millions of people die on roads worldwide with millions more injured. What if we can transform  this statistic starting with a change in mindset? Vision Zero is a concept that embraces an attitude that no loss of life on roads is acceptable. It pushes towards a safer future by focusing on preventing all serious injuries and fatalities. Since the Vision Zero Safe System approach was adopted in Sweden 20 years ago, the initiative has spread globally with promising results. It differs from other safety approaches by focusing solely on fatalities and serious injuries in the context of human error and sharing road system responsibility between all users, designers and decision makers.


WSP’s global business has been championing a Vision Zero approach, helping to implement action plans for the initiative in the US and assisted planning and design of ‘Safe Active Streets’. You can read more about the approach here.


2. Testing Safety of Transport Technologies in a World-First Live Environment

Autonomous and connected vehicles are coming to our roads – some predict as early as next year. Understanding and managing potential issues they bring will be critical to ensuring their safe rollout.


WSP has been passionate about safety from the very beginning, working with Austroads to explore the impacts and implications for road operators in one of the first studies into their rollout in Australia and New Zealand. Since then, we’ve gone on to play key roles in several trials for these highly integrated transport technologies, including laying down the foundation for vulnerable road user safety pilots in Queensland to support the state’s vision for Zero Road Deaths, as well as trialling driverless buses in regional NSW.


Our most ambitious undertaking to date has been the Australian Integrated Multimodal Ecosystem (AIMES) – a University of Melbourne initiative to build a world-first ‘live’ urban test environment for Connected Automated Vehicles (CAVs). The ecosystem covers 6 km2 immediately to the university’s east. More than 50 leading national and international industry proponents are working together, including Cisco, Cohda Wireless, road and transport operators, and Transport Accident Commission. WSP is one of four foundational partners.


In 2018, AIMES first conducted four trials of interactions between CAVs and roadside communication infrastructure (edge and fog computing). Drivers in CAVs were sent highly targeted and timely warnings of the presence of vulnerable users (pedestrians) with the aim of speeding up vehicle response times in busy urban environments and avoiding collisions.


The AIMES site combines 100 km of roadways including major arterial roads, several traversing bus and tram routes, and a mixed commercial and retail strip, making the successes gained that much more valuable when we’re trying to save lives.


Click to download the trial’s findings.


3. Digging for Deeper Insights Into Road User Experiences

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could get into the heads of our road users to understand their experience of our networks? While we’re a while away from reading minds, WSP has been trialling an approach that uses Virtual Reality (VR) to recreate the user experience of navigating a highway interchange. It’s assessing the ‘people factor’ to understand key driver decision points towards safer, intuitive designs.


Participants use a HTC Vive headset in conjunction with steering wheel and pedal peripherals so they feel fully immersed in the driving experience. A multi-screen-based solution enables people susceptible to VR sickness to still participate in testing.


Designers and engineers have already used this duplicate to ‘drive through’ the corridor before public testing. Using real people to test the human experience of intersection designs and signage helps designers and engineers check usability, optimise signage and road design, and improve driver wayfinding and safety.