It’s finally here!
It’s taken nearly two decades, but intelligent transportation system technology is beginning to exert an influence
By Tom Kuennen, Contributing Editor
After nearly two decades of development, intelligent transportation system (ITS) technologies are finally going “mainstream.”
The eyes of the ITS community – in both the public and the private sectors – remain firmly fixed on the big prize, self-controlling “autonomous” vehicles that respond to environmental and vehicle cues, and embedded signals, to avoid crashes, save lives and optimize travel. Another great goal is the ability of ITS to track vehicle movements to manage traffic volume and impose congestion pricing.
These two costly and even controversial outcomes have been long-time goals of the ITS Vehicle-Infrastructure Integration initiative, last year revised and relaunched as IntelliDrive, a service mark of the U.S. Department of Transportation.
But in the meantime, a host of “meat-and-potatoes,” functional applications of ITS technology to vehicles and traffic already are transforming how commuters get to work and how traffic is managed throughout American road networks at all levels of government. And ongoing active research into these relatively low-cost, practical applications of ITS technology means that improvements will continue to flow, and refine how ITS will improve road system utilization.
The Promise of ITS
The promise of ITS is the high-tech transformation of automobile and truck travel, making it faster, safer and more efficient, helping optimize the traffic-carrying capacity of our congested highway infrastructure.
“Intelligent transportation systems encompass a broad range of wireless and wired communications-based technologies,” says the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, better known as ITS America. “When integrated into the transportation system, and in vehicles themselves, these technologies relieve congestion, improve safety, and enhance productivity and the environment.”
ITS encompasses a huge variety of applications over very wide segments of the soft-wheel transportation sector. Examples of ITS applications include vehicle collision avoidance technologies, E-Z Pass and “open road” tolling, real-time traffic and transit information, GPS-equipped navigational devices, “smart” traffic signals and parking systems, congestion pricing systems, weigh-in-motion truck inspection, electronic reservation and payment for transportation services, and advanced traffic management systems.
Applications include improvement of traffic flow, reduction of congestion and emissions, detection and response to highway emergencies, and warning of drivers of impending danger; but also improving freight security, provision of on-demand travel services, and the checking registration documents for commercial vehicles.
“Intelligent technologies are emerging to enable transportation networks and users to communicate with each other, improving system performance, safety and convenience, making IT just as important to 21st century transportation as airplanes, asphalt and petroleum were in the last century,” said Samuel J. Palmisano, chairman and CEO of IBM Corp., at the 2010 annual meeting of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America in Houston in May.
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