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Smart motorways suffer ‘unplanned outage’

The Dynac system running the UK’s smart motorways failed for two hours on February 22 2023, leaving drivers without signage or stopped vehicle detection

Motorway

Much of England’s smart motorway network has suffered an unplanned outage, National Highways has confirmed. The failure left drivers using the roads without electronic signage or stopped vehicle detection for two hours.

The Dynac system – the software used to run signage, signals and stopped vehicle detection across the smart motorway network – went down at 8:30am on Wednesday 22 February across all smart motorways in England, except for those in the east and south-east. The problem was not fixed until around 10:30am.

National Highways says it is urgently investigating the cause of the outage, adding that it has procedures in place – such as increased patrols and CCTV monitoring – to deal with such incidents. The outage coincided with a debate in Parliament on the safety of smart motorways. There are also reports that a similar outage occurred on 26 October 2022.

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AA president Edmund King commented: “So called ‘smart’ motorways cease to be smart when the technology fails, and drivers in dangerous live lane situations are left as sitting ducks.

“Road users can only have confidence in the systems if the technology works. That’s clearly not the case with the outage today. Some 38 per cent of breakdowns on smart motorways occur in live lanes, as often there is nowhere to go and these situations – with or without technology – are terrifying.

“While somewhat ironic that the systems should fail on the day their safety is debated in Parliament, perhaps it is now time to go back to the drawing board and totally redesign these roads as drivers have lost faith in their safety.”

The rollout of smart motorways has been put on hold pending a safety review. The debate around the pros and cons of smart motorways has become highly controversial and emotional, with several fatalities having resulted from live lane breakdowns.

What are your thoughts on smart motorways? Let us know in the comments section below...

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