Plan maps out smart transportation

Intelligent Transportation Society of America

The Intelligent Transportation Society of America unveiled its vision for the future of transportation Jan. 14 during the annual meeting of the Transportation Research Board.

The plan, "National Intelligent Transportation Systems Program Plan: A Ten-Year Vision," calls for further development and deployment of technologies that make commuting easier by giving travelers the information they need to avoid traffic. Goals include improving the mobility, safety and security of the transportation system; saving $20 billion a year through the efficient movement of people and goods; and reducing emissions by cutting fuel consumption.

"It's a framework for an industry," said Jeffrey Paniati, program manager for the Transportation Department's Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office. "DOT is going to take it and look at it internally."

ITS America, a public/private venture that acts as an advisory committee to DOT, organized the document into programmatic themes, which apply technology to solve various problems. The plan is meant to serve as an impetus for major public and private initiatives, ultimately leading to the creation of a seamless, end-to-end transportation system for passengers.

To meet that goal, the group also laid out "enabling themes," which include creating a culture of transportation systems management and operation; defining new public-sector roles, relationships and funding; developing new federal policies and initiatives to achieve extensive private-sector deployment; and focusing on human factors.

Representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and the American Public Transportation Association hailed the document as a huge step forward for intelligent transportation systems (ITS).

"Be creative and be forceful and implement these [themes] the best way you see fit," said James Wright, engineer senior administrator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Others attending the meeting, however, criticized the lack of attention ITS has received in the public domain. In the past, the ITS movement also has taken flak for progressing too slowly despite its multibillion- dollar federal budget.

But Paniati said some ITS products — such as adaptive cruise control, in-vehicle navigational devices and sensors on cars — are already on the market. And on the infrastructure side, cameras, detectors and surveillance systems have been installed to collect data on traffic flow, he said, adding that about four jurisdictions have developed a 511 service for travelers to call for traffic information and about another 12 are in the process of doing so.

Responding to a push for new products, critics continue to voice concerns about driver distractions. Officials contend, however, that the plan's human factors theme will address that issue.

"We need really good research and development of standards," said Robert Denaro, a senior vice president for Rand McNally & Co.

***

On the road again

The 10-year plan for intelligent transportation systems suggests the following technologies to address transportation problems:

* An integrated network of transportation information.

* Advanced crash- avoidance technologies.

* Automatic crash and incident detection, notification and response.

* Advanced transportation management.

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