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IT special: all-round winner

If there’s one thing the world needs, it’s more roundabouts. But are we designing and building them correctly? A new IT-led approach to design could help.

Few could argue that the modern roundabout has an impressive record when it comes to environmental, public safety and traffic control.

According to the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety there are 40% fewer vehicle collisions, 80% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities at roundabouts compared to the intersections they replace.

Globally we need more, better quality roundabouts. But how is that to be achieved? Google roundabout design software and the sheer volume and variety of results creates a false impression of the information technology (IT) in support of this crucial aspect of highways planning.

Low-tech processes stifle progress

The reality is that the roundabout design process is time-consuming and involves much repetitive work. In the age of the PC, experienced planners confirm that many areas are still carried out manually and the process is stifling progress.

It is not a shortage of software that is the issue. Software products such as TRL’s ARCADY (Assessment of Roundabout Capacity and Delay), aaSIDRA, RODEL and Transoft’s AutoTURN all lead their field, are well used and deliver very specific benefits. They are largely self-contained and address the more obvious computational and analysis functions.

As good as they are, however, they do not address management and strategic issues. IT development aimed at managing and integrating the end-to-end process of roundabout design could be the right direction.

Invaluable new software

Transportation software specialist Transoft Solutions has launched just such a product. The system, Torus, is powered by its AutoTURN vehicle simulation engine and is the result of more than six years’ development. Torus enables the transportation engineer to approach roundabout planning, traffic operations and safety in one integrated step.

There are 40% fewer vehicle collisions, 80% fewer injuries and 90% fewer serious injuries and fatalities at roundabouts compared to the intersections they replace.

This minimises design iterations and delivers the optimum sizing and location, leading to huge increases in productivity. At the same time, safety and operational benefits derived from key design principles are maximised.

The process responds to each design change using interactive feedback on vehicle movement, fastest path analysis, driver sight line evaluation and version management to generate the footprint of the roundabout based on accurate and valid vehicle movement characteristics.

Unlocking the full potential

The Torus Design Manager feature allows multiple design iterations within a single drawing to be saved, recalled and compared, while the entire design process can be automatically documented to provide an invaluable reference archive.

The Roundabout Generation feature uses the full complement of controls to edit, update, display and manage designs dynamically, presenting and managing design modifications and their impact to the traffic engineer as they are made. Comparison and analysis of designs is facilitated in real-time, providing instant feedback on the advantages and disadvantages of different designs.

Integration of the “best of breed” operational software products into a managed end-to-end process should now be an industry goal. But unlocking the full potential for management and strategic benefits in roundabout design depends on cooperation from the specialist suppliers and a standard architecture platform to build on.

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