Trams and cars share the road in Melbourne.
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Improving the future of road safety in Australia with Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication

Trams and cars share the road in Melbourne.
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PostedDEC. 6, 2022
Words byKeolis
Yarra Trams, operated by Keolis Downer, have completed, in partnership with the University of Melbourne and Lexus Australia, on-road trials of the world-leading Cooperative Intelligent Transport System (C-ITS). This Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) communication system allows trams and cars to communicate with each other in real-time, helping improve road safety and providing a safer service for passengers.

Context: Collisions with trams: a key road safety issue

Yarra Trams operates the world’s largest tram network with more than 250 km of double track and more than 200 million passengers per year.  It’s also unique in the world for the high portion of space the network shares with other road users. This produces significant conflict points between vehicles and trams, resulting in more than 1,100 vehicle-to-tram collisions each year, or more than three per day.

Currently, around 70% of vehicle collisions are due to vehicles merging ahead of a tram or performing a U-turn in front of a tram. These collisions can result in major damage to vehicles as well as serious injuries to drivers, tram employees and passengers.

Such collisions also have an impact on tram availability, with an average of 10 trams unavailable at peak service due to collision repairs. Moreover, collision repairs cost Yarra Trams nearly $3 million every year. 

74% of the tram network is shared with other road users.
74% of the tram network is shared with other road users.

74

 %

of the network is shared with other road users.

70

 %

of collisions are due to vehicles merging ahead of a tram or performing a U-turn in front of a tram

40

 %

of unavailable trams take more than a week to repair after a collision.

Innovation: V2V communication to prevent collisions

In conjunction with Lexus Australia and the Australian Integrated Multimodal Ecosystem (AIMES) research body, Yarra Trams carried out trials of a V2V communication system to explore the potential road safety benefits for local drivers, tram operators and passengers.

Completed between 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM on Melbourne’s Lygon Street at the end of 2021, these trials established the clear safety benefits of tram-vehicle communications. The project centered on two main forms of in-vehicle alerts for drivers: tram awareness alerts and tram passenger warnings.

Tram Awareness Alert

Tram Awareness Alert

Alerts a driver who is about to turn across a tram track of a tram approaching from behind the vehicle. 

Tram Passenger Warning

Tram Passenger Warning

Warns a driver of tram passengers disembarking or embarking when approaching a stationary tram. 

Value: Improving road safety for all users

Overall, the trial found that the V2V system successfully alerted drivers intending to turn across a tram track that a tram was approaching. If implemented widely, this would help reduce the number of vehicle-to-tram collisions by increasing driver awareness when moving in shared traffic. The benefits of this system include enhanced road safety and urban livability, especially for inner cities in Australia.

The trial also demonstrated good cooperation between the various stakeholders to test the new vehicle-to-vehicle applications and ensure reliable communication between trams and vehicles. This allowed for the successful testing of safety applications and represents a major step forward for safer roads shared by public transport and cars.  

V2V communication: a major step forward for safer roads
The trials were completed between 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM on Melbourne’s Lygon Street at the end of 2021

The trials were completed between 1:00 AM and 4:00 AM on Melbourne’s Lygon Street at the end of 2021.

Next steps: Finetuning the system while exploring other applications

Building on this successful trial, Yarra Trams will continue to employ a combination of innovative infrastructure and technological solutions to improve road safety across its tram network. Future research may further improve road safety by combining AI analysis of road traffic, sensor technology and public transport data.

Furthermore, the AIMES testbed offers the opportunity to further study the potential of a large-scale deployment of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technologies. This may involve rolling out V2V communication technology not only for passenger vehicles, trams and buses, but also for specialised vehicles such as ambulances, fire trucks and police cars.

Yarra Trams by night.
Yarra Trams by night.
Yarra Trams handles over 200 million passengers per year.

Yarra Trams handles over 200 million passengers per year.