Benjie Orpilla’s job is to track and analyse data associated with the road management of Te Aranui o Te Rangihaeata - Transmission Gully.
There are multiple radar-based traffic counters on the Transmission Gully network that record the traffic numbers in 15-minute intervals including the length and configuration of vehicles, as well as the speed of vehicles and in which lanes they are travelling. The radars can also detect any unusual or unsafe driver behaviour such as wrong-way driving, slow or stopped vehicles, pedestrians or debris on the motorway.
“Data is important; it tells us a lot about what will happen in the future under different scenarios, which is extremely important. When managing an asset, data helps keep people safe, whether it’s workers onsite, road users, or future generations that will drive on the road,” says Benjie.
This data feeds into road management processes, Benjie explains. For example, there are processes for corridor access requests for any upcoming work; these requests are reported and shared with other network operators and Councils of upcoming work in their area. Ventia use the traffic data to advise the best time to carry out the proposed activity.
“If a lane needs to be closed, we will often advise based on our data, what time work should start and finish to ensure as little disruption for road users as possible. Collecting these numbers helps us develop proactive strategies to make the road safer and predictable and limit surprises for motorists travelling on the motorway.”
Benjie’s interest in roading was initially sparked while working in the oil and gas industry, where he first discovered how roads were built for the drilling rigs he was designing tracks for. After completing a graduate degree in roading, Benjie chose to focus on data and analytics as an engineering technician. Now as Ventia’s Asset Manager for Transmission Gully motorway, the future of the road industry still excites Benjie.
“Machine learning has been widely utilised in earth sciences and remote sensing since the late 1980s/90s to determine land use and change. It is great to see these same technologies now being applied to roading. As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) becomes more mainstream and affordable, its insights will enable the roading industry to become even safer, more efficient, and proactive, which is quite exciting,” says Benjie.
“AI has the advantage over the human eye, in that it is able to look beyond what we can see, looking into further layers to pull additional information, enabling deeper insight. This intelligence will help identify the parts of our roading that are prone to potholes, black ice, frost, etc, before it’s detectable to the human eye.”
AI is already commonly used in some industries, so how soon can we expect AI for road asset management? Benjie tells us it’ll be here sooner than you think. “I think eventually it will be as common as Microsoft Word on your computer.”