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Driving change

Nov 2017 Cable & Wire, Lighting | Comments Off on Driving change
Driving change

LED lighting is being used to improve traffic flow on many of the country’s most congested motorways, says Scott Jones, technical manager of Northern Connectors

The emergence of LED lighting as a valuable alternative to energy-guzzling, traditional lighting methods has had a significant impact on a number of different industries, as both businesses and consumers alike recognise the savings that can be made by switching to this innovative technology. While some LED applications are designed with the sole aim of looking aesthetically pleasing, many others are purely functional.

Smart motorways are just one of many examples where the advantages offered by LED lighting have been picked up by industry. The technology is playing a considerable role in revolutionising the realm of transport, working to improve traffic flow on many of the country’s most congested motorways.

The significance of LED lighting use on smart motorways is considerable, with many commuters experiencing dramatic reductions to their tedious journeys thanks to the rollout of such innovations.

More effective traffic filtering is taking the stress out of the daily commute for people across the country, and the increasing adoption of smart motorways is set to further improve conditions for drivers.

Making the connection with LEDs

Connectors, from brands such as Binder and Souriau, are predominantly used to bring power and signal from the source to the equipment, often in robust and harsh environments where a solid connection and signal integrity is important.

LEDs are increasingly being used in overhead displays on smart motorways across the UK in order to increase the efficiency of motorways for road users. The matrix displays can open and close lanes, depending on the flow of traffic. These displays also play an important role in issuing temporary speed limits in the event of poor weather conditions or heavy congestion.

Matrix displays notify drivers of any changing conditions while they are using motorways. Images and text can be displayed in different colours, making messages much clearer for drivers.

The use of LEDs in matrix sign also means they are more reliable and easier to maintain, which is vital for the smooth running of the country’s motorways. They are also much more versatile than more traditional methods of displaying information, and can be updated quickly if conditions worsen.

Keep on driving

LEDs are most commonly used on motorways for the following purposes:

  • Displaying variable speed limits
  • Closing lanes
  • Opening hard shoulders to limit congestion.
  • Currently, there are three types of smart motorways in operation across England. The first is ‘dynamic hard shoulder running’, which involves opening the hard shoulder as a running lane to traffic at busy periods in a bid to ease congestion. Currently, this method is in operation on the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M42 and involves a solid white line that differentiates the hard shoulder from the normal carriageway.

    The second smart motorway type is ‘all lane running’, which uses the hard shoulder as a permanent live running lane. Originally trialled on the M25, this option features broken white lines, with the former hard shoulder lane only closed off during an emergency. On all running motorways, the emergency refuges are spaced at 2.5km apart. However, this approach to traffic management has faced criticism from those who question whether it is as safe as a permanent or temporary hard shoulder.

    Finally, ‘controlled’ motorways feature three or more lanes with variable speed limits, and the hard shoulder is only permitted for use during a genuine emergency.

    The important role that LEDs are playing in improving driving conditions for commuters should not be underestimated. Journey times and the safety of those journeys are being improved considerably as a result of the technology presented in smart motorways, and as adoption increases, this is set to improve matters even further.