Congested roadways, rising gas prices, deteriorating infrastructure, highway safety, escalating costs, and tight state and federal budgets -- these challenges, along with growing population, strain US roadways. This strain is why Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are needed to help government and industry make better use of the current roadway network, while building a smarter infrastructure to meet future demands. To understand better the benefits ITS delivers, here are ten ways ITS can improve our lives.
1. Save lives by reducing wrong-way accidents
Rhode Island is deploying ITS devices to reduce incidents of wrong-way driving in urban areas. The Rhode Island State Police department reports that wrong-way driving incidents happen up to twice a week, sometimes daily. Several highways in the state have diamond ramp patterns where the on- and off-ramps are next to one another. ITS devices would detect vehicles entering the highway via off-ramps, and flash two wrong-way signs to alert the driver of the error.
If the driver continues past those signs, state police would be notified automatically. Warnings would also be posted on large overhead digital signs mounted across state highways. ITS solutions are also being deployed by Departments of Transportation (DOTs) to monitor traffic patterns continuously, allowing personnel who monitor to dispatch the proper equipment needed by first responders. They can also notify law enforcement and other emergency teams when needed.
2. Deliver relevant messages
ITS provides the data behind "travel time" signs. Using ITS, public sector agencies can translate traffic slowdowns into text-based messages for use in smartphone services and on roadway signs. ITS solutions are also being tied to overhead message signs that will alert travelers as they approach accidents or other incidents in order to give drivers time to opt for alternate routes to avoid difficult areas.
3. Increase transparency and accountability
Public sector transportation departments must justify roadway improvements and show how each improvement achieves its desired results. DOTs are under pressure to provide data measuring the performance of roadways, help streamline transportation operations, and improve constituent services.
ITS devices are helping DOTs deliver real-time, predictive, and historical traffic information, along with real-time incident updates and weather alerts via smartphone services and roadway signs. Using real-time, predictive, and historical traffic information, DOT officials gain the data needed to identify, model, and evaluate the effectiveness of transportation improvement projects.
4. Transport more goods more safely
Telematics and Electronic On-Board Recorders (EOBRs) are transforming trucking by using intelligent systems to collect data and communicate in real time to ensure groceries arrive unspoiled, drivers are less fatigued, and highways are safer. EOBRs track driving hours, fuel-efficiency factors, location, and even events such as hard braking or the activation of a truck's trailer roll stability controls.
These data points are communicated in real time to the company by satellite or cell tower, and used to help drivers make decisions en route. The future of telematics lies in cross-referencing real-time driver data with weather, parking availability, and traffic delay information, which can all then be relayed to the driver to help avoid long delays or exceed maximum driving hours.
5. Improve safety, reduce driver fatigue
The US Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration will soon require all carriers to install EOBRs in vehicles to track vehicle status and the number of hours a driver has been on the road. Proponents say the devices will improve trucking safety. Three million truckers today still use paper log books, although it's widely acknowledged that information in driver log books is often less than truthful. EOBR devices will help improve safety and prevent driver fatigue.
6. Generate revenue for local government services
By understanding expected traffic conditions for every hour of every day, government agencies gain the insight needed to align toll charges with traffic volumes based on a thorough understanding of traffic patterns in any specific regional area.
7. Get into the (population) flow
Information about how populations travel from one point to another is emerging as a powerful tool for building smarter cities and creating better customer relationships. Detailed knowledge about origins and routes can help private and public sector organizations gain new insights into the daily actions of customers and constituents.
These insights would be nearly impossible to decipher using other methods. Such knowledge forms the foundation of "population analytics," which promises to transform everything from road planning and event management to retail strategies and financial forecasting.
8. Assess property locations using actual drive-time information
In real estate, ITS systems are being used to help home buyers and real estate agents assess properties based on actual drive times to and from home and work, based on traffic conditions at any given time of day. This is important because the amount of traffic congestion in 2013 grew 6% from 2012, according to traffic data firm Inrix. Optimizing roadways using technology and analytics is considered key to relieving congestion throughout many urban areas.
9. Deliver intrinsically valuable content
Using ITS, media and entertainment broadcasters can deliver highly targeted information to consumers by using high-quality, localized real-time ITS traffic information, weather and incident alerts, and traffic forecasts.
10. Implement mobile communications to assist drivers
Automakers are aligning with mobile computing technology companies to deliver in-car communications tools to aid drivers. From these partnerships, emerging mobile tech solutions have the potential to reinvent automobiles and help reduce global driving gridlock via the advent of accident-preventing car-to-car communication, autonomous driving, mobile software for parking assistance, and other technologies expected to alter the driving landscape fundamentally.
Is ITS making an impact elsewhere -- or outside the United States? Let us know.
--Chris Janson is Senior Industry Market Manager, Public Sector, at Ciena Corporation.