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Backstage of expressway - "traffic control systems" supporting the logistics

  • MitaOk, could you tell us what the roadway control center does?
  • KawaguchiThe roadway control center is like the "control tower" of the traffic control system. It gathers sensor information from traffic counters and other devices, processes the gathered information into easy-to-understand traffic information, and provides drivers with that information. The roadway control center employs huge displays, and many operators work while sharing information. The center is in operation 24 hours a day throughout the year, so it's tough for the operators. To ensure that information can be displayed without interruption, the displays used for the Shin-Tomei Expressway has some new features.

Photo:The huge display installed in the roadway control center of the Shin-Tomei ExpresswayThe huge display installed in the roadway control center of the Shin-Tomei Expressway

  • MitaNew features?
  • NaganoYes. The displays that we delivered to the roadway control center of the Shin-Tomei Expressway makes up a huge display wall consisting of 4 rows of 16, 46-inch displays, or 64 displays in total. And the frame width of each display is very narrow - less than 1 cm - to make them easy to view for the operators. What's more, each of these displays can be removed individually.
  • MitaRemove each display individually? Why is it necessary?
  • NaganoAs Mr. Kawaguchi said earlier, the roadway control center is in operation 24 hours a day throughout the year, and they need to keep the huge display powered on. So it is necessary for them to be able to remove any of the displays individually for maintenance while keeping the others powered on. We therefore designed the huge display for the Shin-Tomei Expressway so that it would be possible to remove only the one that needs maintenance.
  • MitaI see. That feature must come in handy when they need to remove a display in the middle.
  • KawaguchiAlso, there is another new feature that comes in handy when installing servers. We have combined several distinct systems, each of which is used for a different purpose, into a single unit, thus achieving a 90% reduction in the server installation space. That also helps cut power consumption significantly.
  • MitaI see that lots of creativity went into the system. Is there anything else you can boast, for example, in relation to the traffic information we see?
  • NaganoYes. We have gone through a process of trial and error with NEXCO Central to figure out how traffic information should be provided to information boards and terminals in order to ensure safe transportation. We make sure that the provided information is easy to understand. For example, the information board displays the traffic information that is most important at the current point of time.
  • MitaTraffic information that is most important?
  • NaganoYes. The amount of information that an information board can provide to drivers is limited. So, from the large amount of collected information, the traffic control system automatically identifies the most important information that needs to be conveyed and displays that information on the information board.
  • MitaSo the traffic information displayed on those information boards reflects your passion.
  • KawaguchiYes. It reflects NEXCO Central's commitment to safety and our technological know-how. Also, the Shin-Tomei Expressway has introduced a vital system. It's called an emergency backup system.
  • MitaEmergency backup system?
  • NaganoIt's an emergency response system built in to enable the traffic control system to function even in the event of a large scale emergency. Installing backup systems in remote locations keeps the functionality of the traffic control system alive even if a disaster disables the roadway control center.
  • MitaIt's like having spare reservoirs of information at remote locations, right?
  • NaganoThat's right. What's more, the Tomei Expressway and Shin-Tomei Expressway are connected in a ring, making the network less prone to disruption.
  • MitaNetwork?
  • NaganoExpressways have network communication cables installed on them. Previously, we had only one network route on the Tomei Expressway. Now that the Shin-Tomei Expressway has opened, the two expressways are connected in a ring. This means that, if a big earthquake disrupts part of the Tomei Expressway or communication route, the network of Tomei works in conjunction with that of Shin-Tomei, securing the communication route to the roadway control center and thus allowing the center to stay in operation. In other words, the network itself has become more reliable.
  • MitaSo we have multiple routes now, and we can switch to the route of Shin-Tomei if that of Tomei fails, for example. Am I right?
  • NaganoThat's right. The expressway route between Tokyo and Nagoya is the main artery of Japan's logistic operations. So, we make doubly sure to have robust disaster countermeasures in place to protect this route.
  • MitaThat is very reassuring!
  • NaganoThank you. I'm very proud that we are contributing to the safe operation of not just the Shin-Tomei Expressway but also the other expressways.
  • MitaNow I understand that it's your efforts that make it possible for us to use expressways with an easy mind. Thank you for your informative talk!
  • Nagano and KawaguchiIt's been nice sharing our knowledge with you. Thank you for having us on your program.

Conclusion
In this installment of the program, we explored traffic control systems used to provide us with various types of traffic information of expressways. How did you like it?

Particularly, in the recently opened Shin-Tomei Expressway, they gather roadway information at one-minute intervals and have emergency backup systems in place. There were many things I didn't know, and the interview was full of surprises. We casually use expressways in our daily lives. Behind the scenes, however, a lot of people are working hard to keep us safe.

When you check on the traffic jam information during your next drive, remember what the two engineers told us in the interview. That may make you see the information differently than in the past. See you in the next installment of "MiTA TV"!

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