Sydney GPS tunnel trial to go ahead
A trial to assess the boosting of GPS signals in Sydney’s road tunnels has been given the go-ahead, with funding approved and federal laws amended to accommodate the project.
The trial, which aims to improve safety within the tunnels by providing more reliable GPS signals via provision of repeaters, will be conducted by Transport for NSW.
The Acting Deputy Secretary for Transport for NSW, Howard Collins, said, “We know how frustrating it can be for motorists when your GPS signal drops out mid-journey. This is even more of a problem for emergency services and freight operators that depend on GPS to quickly find and communicate within their teams.
“We have been working with tunnel experts to develop solutions that will assist drivers to navigate the existing and future road tunnel network faster and more accurately.”
According to Collins, the stumbling block had been a federal law that banned GPS repeaters due to concerns they could interfere with external GPS signals if not operated correctly.
“Transport for NSW joined with other key agencies to make a submission to get the law changed. The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has agreed to amend the law, and we’ve now confirmed funding to start rolling out trials in coming months,” Collins said.
Transport for NSW has worked on the initiative with the NSW Telco Authority, Fire and Rescue NSW, NSW Ambulance and NSW Police. Funding is to come from the Transport for NSW Asset Technology Program, with the amount to be finalised once a procurement process has been completed.
Fire and Rescue NSW Deputy Commissioner Jeremy Fewtrell said that “Fire and Rescue NSW crews will be at the forefront of testing this new technology, undertaking various scenarios to ensure our specialist communications team can pinpoint the exact location of a Triple Zero (000) caller if they are in a tunnel and increase our visibility of our trucks and crews to ensure the correct resourcing is assigned to an emergency incident.
“The increased response capability will help us better protect the NSW community.”
Hamish Duff, General Manager of The Orion Network, said that the trial is a “very good idea”.
“Firstly there is a public safety need, but also GPS has become a community expectation. GPS is now an essential service that many users rely on without even realising it. The general community may expect GPS to work in modern tunnels just as broadcasting and cellular does,” he said.
“We see this as a natural extension” to all the other services into which resources are being invested, he added.
Ben Cosier, Operations Manager at IMPULSE Wireless, said that “GPS repeaters are a great initiative to improve not only motorists’ safety, but also the safety of tunnel staff including incident response, maintenance and emergency services.”
Cosier points out that while a number of road tunnel operations track their staff underground using Bluetooth beacons, this, however, “requires users to have an authorised application for detecting and locating the beacons”.
“Where provisioned, GPS repeaters could open up underground tracking to all users of smart devices,” he said.
If the trial is successful, it could lead to a licensing arrangement for devices that can be used across projects such as the forthcoming Western Harbour Tunnel, Beaches Link, M6 Stage 1, as well as existing road tunnels.
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