Smart Motorway

Wellington has a smart motorway from the downtown Terrace tunnel, north to Johnsonville and Petone. About 90,000 vehicles use this motorway each day and there are often traffic jams, especially during rush hours. A smart motorway will allow 600 extra cars every hour at busy times and keep the traffic moving although at a slower speed. An extra north-bound lane also helps in the evening rush hour. The extra south-bound lane is not yet finished.

Information about the number of vehicles on the motorway comes from cameras, sensors under the road, radars on lighting poles and blue tooth data from drivers’ phones. (It is anonymous – no personal information.) As traffic starts to increase in the late afternoon, a computer works out the best speed for more cars moving closer together. This is safer and also more reliable. Drivers should know exactly how long the same trip will take each day. Electronic speed signs are posted above the road. Other signs give information about accidents or roadworks.

While a smart motorway should reduce driver stress, it is also very important for commercial trucks. Time is money, and time stuck in traffic jams can be expensive.

At the moment, the smart motorway is being carefully monitored to make sure it works well. It will all happen automatically by computer by the end of this year. If it is successful, Auckland will probably copy it.


• motorway – designed for fast-moving traffic. It has 2 or 3 lanes in each direction with a divider between traffic moving in the opposite direction. In NZ, the speed is usually 100 kph.
• sensor – sends a signal to a computer
• radar – uses radio waves to measure distance and speed
• anonymous – no name
• reliable – more certain, you can trust it
• monitor (v) – check

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