By adding the information from variable message signs in the Flitsmeister app, motorists are warned well in advance (visually and with spoken text) with alerts about traffic lanes being closed or open. Users can see and hear whether this concerns a left or a right lane. Motorists also receive information about the right maximum speeds for rush-hour lanes. This additional information leads to better driving behaviour, increases traffic safety (at present red X signs above the road are still being ignored approximately 250,000 times a year) and ensures a freer flow of traffic.
Talking Traffic partners Be Mobile and the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management (RWS) particularly had their hands full last year trying to make the new feature work in a technical and practical sense. One of the tasks for RWS, for example, was bringing the data supply from the traffic management systems up to par in terms of quality and stability. The main challenge in the collaboration with partner Be-Mobile was to get the information from variable message signs to users in their car in real time. Now with both these missions accomplished, motorists are already benefiting from the extra information. Jorn de Vries: “We are still experiencing some technical hiccups since the introduction, but they were to be expected, they are just part of the process. We are receiving valuable feedback from our users on a daily basis.”
On the whole, those users are very positive about the added features. ‘Great addition’ and ‘Works fantastic!’ are just some reactions that come in via social media. There are also technical questions, or questions as to why it is not yet functioning (properly) at a certain location. De Vries: “Our network has national coverage, but in practice it does not yet work perfectly everywhere under all circumstances. That is why we are asking our users to report that immediately.”
Users are also asking about extra additions, which is music to the ears of De Vries. Because now that it is technically possible to get dynamic information into the car in real time, new steps are beckoning. De Vries: “The app will never be finished. It is great that we can now think further about new innovations to help motorists even better and to increase safety. In doing so, we will always be balancing between what is technically possible and what is desirable. For example, you could add information about recommended routes to big events, but the provision of information en route should always be safe. Naturally, we would like to provide useful information, but we should always ensure that motorists are distracted as little as possible.”
In any event, it is safe to say that the new Flitsmeister addition is not an unnecessary ‘luxury’. Research among more than 1000 motorists has shown that nearly 11 percent of road users think that the speed indicated on variable message signs is a ‘recommended speed’, while in fact these are, of course, maximum speeds. The variable message signs innovations remind users of this once more, which RWS hopes will have a positive effect¬ on the safety of road workers.