Transport for NSW ditches SCATS traffic system commercialisation

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Transport for NSW ditches SCATS traffic system commercialisation

Will instead establish dedicated team to accelerate development in-house.

Transport for NSW has abandoned plans to commercialise the state-owned Sydney coordinated adaptive traffic system (SCATS) and will instead set up a dedicated team to accelerate its development.

The major investment in the intelligent real-time traffic management system announced this week aims to future proof the mission-criticial technology almost 50 years after it was first introduced.

The system, which was developed by the then NSW Department of Main Roads in the 1970s, is used to manage traffic light signal phases across much of Australia to minimise delays on the road network.

It does this by using vehicle sensors at more than 4300 NSW intersections to adjust signals in real-time according to changes in traffic flows and to prioritise emergency services vehicles and public transport services. 

TfNSW estimates that SCATS reduces travel times, emission and fuel consumption by 28 percent, 15 percent and 12 percent, respectively, amounting to $24 million in daily economic benefits in Sydney.

While already the most widely used adaptive traffic control system globally, having been adopted by 28 countries worldwide, TfNSW had planned to adopt a new commercial model for the system.

It approached the market for a commercial and financial advisor in December 2019 to oversee the commercialisation, which was deemed necessary to avoid “obsolescence” for SCATS.

“TfNSW is seeking to implement a new commercial model, with a commercial partner to accelerate innovation and importantly future-proof the SCATS product and business,” tender documents said at the time.

But the department has now ditched that approach, with a new team to be established within TfNSW to accelerate the development of SCATS and expand its commercial activities.

A spokesperson told iTnews that “after further work, TfNSW has chosen to proceed with a new structure, which extends on aspects of TfNSW's original plan in 2019”, part of which will include “working with partners”.

The new team, which will include “technology developers, engineers and commercial leaders”, will aim to “build SCATS into a leading product and venture in the smart cities technology sector”.

The spokesperson added that a number of positions for the SCATS leadership team would be “advertised in the near future”.

“We are working on detailed planning for resources and partners as part of creating the new team,” the spokesperson said.

TfNSW secretary Rod Sharp said the time was now right to expand SCATS to capitalise on almost 50 years of development and address what he described as a fast-growing intelligent transport systems market.

The importance of intelligent transport systems was highlighted in the state’s recent future transport technology roadmap, particularly for expanding real-time data sharing capabilities.

“Adaptive technologies like SCATS can improve the lives of citizens, reduce transport emissions and help unlock additional economic growth,” Sharp said.

“This investment will accelerate the development of an even more dynamic system that will benefit drivers everywhere for many years to come.”

TFNSW customer strategy and technology division deputy secretary Joost de Kock said several new features are planned for SCATS to “significantly improve the commercial customer experience”.

Features include better integration with third-party sensors, machine learning-based prediction, sophisticated analytics and performance reporting and a UI/UX refresh.

“We also aim to build on existing commercial customer relationships by providing significantly greater training, collaboration and ongoing support,” he added.

“We invite any transport agency interested in trialling SCATS to get in touch.”

SCATS is one of two major adaptive intelligent transport systems at TfNSW, the other being a multi-modal transport management platform used for the intelligent congestion management program.

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