Press releases

ORR welcomes smart motorway technology improvements and will continue to scrutinise performance

21 July 2023
The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has written to National Highways today and welcomed improvements in the performance of its smart motorway Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology, following initial testing. However, ORR recognises that caution is required when interpreting the data.
Cover Image
Stretch of smart motorways

In December 2022, ORR reported that the SVD system on all lane running (ALR) sections of smart motorway was not meeting performance expectations. In response to the ORR’s concerns, National Highways implemented a software fix which it then tested on three ALR smart motorway schemes.

The initial round of testing from these ALR sites showed:

Detection rate for stopped vehicles (target: 80%)

  • Detection rates ranged from 91% to 97%.  

False detection rate (target: <15%)

  • The false detection rates ranged from 1% to 10%.  

Average time to detect (target: 20 seconds)

  • The average time to detect ranged from 5.8 to 9.7 seconds.  

In the letter to National Highways, ORR said it had noted that data from the three test sites show the company is meeting the performance levels that it originally specified and also noted that the roll-out of the upgrade to other ALR sites was completed by 14 June 2023.

The letter added that caution is required when interpreting data from the results because the company has made improvements to the methodology used to calculate SVD performance that affect comparisons with the results ORR reported in December 2022, and the data covers only three sites.

ORR says, as a result, it will continue to monitor the performance of SVD and will take action to require further rapid improvements from National Highways if it is not satisfied that performance targets continue to be met.

John Larkinson, ORR chief executive, said:

“We welcome the latest data that shows National Highways has responded well to our challenge to improve the performance of Stopped Vehicle Detection technology on All Lane Running (ALR) sections of smart motorways.

“It is important that this technology meets the high standards expected of it by road users. We will continue monitor the data until we are satisfied that these levels of performance are being achieved across all sections of ALR smart motorways.”

Notes to editors

  1. Letter to National Highways
  2. National Highways is the Government-owned company responsible for the strategic road network – the motorways and major A-roads in England.
  3. ORR is responsible for holding National Highways to account for delivering the UK government’s priorities for the strategic road network. Its role has expanded to include monitoring National Highways’ delivery of the Smart Motorway Action Plan.