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Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are advanced applications which, without embodying intelligence as such, aim to provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management and enable various users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated, and 'smarter' use of transport networks.
Although ITS may refer to all modes of transport, EU Directive 2010/40/EU (7 July 2010) defines ITS as systems in which information and communication technologies are applied in the field of road transport, including infrastructure, vehicles and users, and in traffic management and mobility management, as well as for interfaces with other modes of transport.
Recent governmental activity in the area of ITS – specifically in the United States – is further motivated by an increasing focus on homeland security. Many of the proposed ITS systems also involve surveillance of the roadways, which is a priority of homeland security. Funding of many systems comes either directly through homeland security organisations or with their approval. Further, ITS can play a role in the rapid mass evacuation of people in urban centres after large casualty events such as a result of a natural disaster or threat. Much of the infrastructure and planning involved with ITS parallels the need for homeland security systems.
In the developing world, the migration from rural to urbanized habitats has progressed differently. Many areas of the developing world have urbanised without significant motorisation and the formation of suburbs. A small portion of the population can afford automobiles, but the automobiles greatly increase congestion in these multimodal transportation systems. They also produce considerable air pollution, pose a significant safety risk, and exacerbate feelings of inequities in the society. High-population density could be supported by a multimodal system of walking, bicycle transportation, motorcycles, buses, and trains.
Other parts of the developing world, such as China, remain largely rural but are rapidly urbanising and industrialising. In these areas a motorised infrastructure is being developed alongside motorisation of the population. Great disparity of wealth means that only a fraction of the population can motorise, and therefore the highly dense multimodal transportation system for the poor is cross-cut by the highly motorised transportation system for the rich.
Intelligent transport systems vary in technologies applied, from basic management systems such as car navigation; traffic signal control systems; container management systems; variable message signs; automatic number plate recognition or speed cameras to monitor applications, such as security CCTV systems; and to more advanced applications that integrate live data and feedback from a number of other sources, such as parking guidance and information systems; weather information; bridge de-icing (US deicing) systems; and the like. Additionally, predictive techniques are being developed to allow advanced modelling and comparison with historical baseline data. Some of these technologies are described in the following sections.
Various forms of wireless communications technologies have been proposed for intelligent transportation systems.
Short-range communications of 350 m can be accomplished using IEEE 802.11 protocols, specifically WAVE or the Dedicated Short Range Communications standard being promoted by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the United States Department of Transportation. Theoretically, the range of these protocols can be extended using Mobile ad hoc networks or Mesh networking.
Longer range communications have been proposed using infrastructure networks such as WiMAX (IEEE 802.16), Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), or 3G. Long-range communications using these methods are well established, but, unlike the short-range protocols, these methods require extensive and very expensive infrastructure deployment. There is lack of consensus as to what business model should support this infrastructure.
Auto Insurance companies have utilised ad hoc solutions to support eCall and behavioural tracking functionalities in the form of Telematics 2.0.
Recent advances in vehicle electronics have led to a move towards fewer, more capable computer processors on a vehicle. A typical vehicle in the early 2000s would have between 20 and 100 individual networked microcontroller/Programmable logic controller modules with non-real-time operating systems. The current trend is toward fewer, more costly microprocessor modules with hardware memory management and Real-Time Operating Systems. The new embedded system platforms allow for more sophisticated software applications to be implemented, including model-based process control, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous computing. Perhaps the most important of these for Intelligent Transportation Systems is artificial intelligence.
"Floating car" or "probe" data collection is a set of relatively low-cost methods for obtaining travel time and speed data for vehicles travelling along streets, highways, motorways (freeways), and other transport routes. Broadly speaking, three methods have been used to obtain the raw data:
Floating car data technology provides advantages over other methods of traffic measurement:
Technological advances in telecommunications and information technology, coupled with ultramodern/state-of-the-art microchip, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), and inexpensive intelligent beacon sensing technologies, have enhanced the technical capabilities that will facilitate motorist safety benefits for intelligent transportation systems globally. Sensing systems for ITS are vehicle- and infrastructure-based networked systems, i.e., Intelligent vehicle technologies. Infrastructure sensors are indestructible (such as in-road reflectors) devices that are installed or embedded in the road or surrounding the road (e.g., on buildings, posts, and signs), as required, and may be manually disseminated during preventive road construction maintenance or by sensor injection machinery for rapid deployment. Vehicle-sensing systems include deployment of infrastructure-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure electronic beacons for identification communications and may also employ video automatic number plate recognition or vehicle magnetic signature detection technologies at desired intervals to increase sustained monitoring of vehicles operating in critical zones.
Inductive loops can be placed in a roadbed to detect vehicles as they pass through the loop's magnetic field. The simplest detectors simply count the number of vehicles during a unit of time (typically 60 seconds in the United States) that pass over the loop, while more sophisticated sensors estimate the speed, length, and weight of vehicles and the distance between them. Loops can be placed in a single lane or across multiple lanes, and they work with very slow or stopped vehicles as well as vehicles moving at high-speed.
Traffic-flow measurement and automatic incident detection using video cameras is another form of vehicle detection. Since video detection systems such as those used in automatic number plate recognition do not involve installing any components directly into the road surface or roadbed, this type of system is known as a "non-intrusive" method of traffic detection. Video from cameras is fed into processors that analyse the changing characteristics of the video image as vehicles pass. The cameras are typically mounted on poles or structures above or adjacent to the roadway. Most video detection systems require some initial configuration to "teach" the processor the baseline background image. This usually involves inputting known measurements such as the distance between lane lines or the height of the camera above the roadway. A single video detection processor can detect traffic simultaneously from one to eight cameras, depending on the brand and model. The typical output from a video detection system is lane-by-lane vehicle speeds, counts, and lane occupancy readings. Some systems provide additional outputs including gap, headway, stopped-vehicle detection, and wrong-way vehicle alarms.
Bluetooth is an accurate and inexpensive way to measure travel time and make origin/destination analysis. Bluetooth is a wireless standard used to communicate between electronic devices like mobile/smart phones, headsets, navigation systems, computers etc. Bluetooth road sensors are able to detect Bluetooth MAC addresses from Bluetooth devices in passing vehicles. If these sensors are interconnected they are able to calculate travel time and provide data for origin/destination matrices. Compared to other traffic measurement technologies, Bluetooth measurement has some significant advantages:
Bluetooth detection uses similar techniques to other traffic measurement technology, and will be as accurate as these other systems.
The in-vehicle eCall is an emergency call generated either manually by the vehicle occupants or automatically via activation of in-vehicle sensors after an accident. When activated, the in-vehicle eCall device will establish an emergency call carrying both voice and data directly to the nearest emergency point (normally the nearest E1-1-2 Public-safety answering point, PSAP). The voice call enables the vehicle occupant to communicate with the trained eCall operator. At the same time, a minimum set of data will be sent to the eCall operator receiving the voice call.
The minimum set of data contains information about the incident, including time, precise location, the direction the vehicle was traveling, and vehicle identification. The pan-European eCall aims to be operative for all new type-approved vehicles as a standard option. Depending on the manufacturer of the eCall system, it could be mobile phone based (Bluetooth connection to an in-vehicle interface), an integrated eCall device, or a functionality of a broader system like navigation, Telematics device, or tolling device. eCall is expected to be offered, at earliest, by the end of 2010, pending standardization by the European Telecommunications Standards Institute and commitment from large EU member states such as France and the United Kingdom.
The EC funded project SafeTRIP is developing an open ITS system that will improve road safety and provide a resilient communication through the use of S-band satellite communication. Such platform will allow for greater coverage of the Emergency Call Service within the EU.
A traffic enforcement camera system, consisting of a camera and a vehicle-monitoring device, is used to detect and identify vehicles disobeying a speed limit or some other road legal requirement and automatically ticket offenders based on the license plate number. Traffic tickets are sent by mail. Applications include:
Recently some jurisdictions have begun experimenting with variable speed limits that change with road congestion and other factors. Typically such speed limits only change to decline during poor conditions, rather than being improved in good ones. One example is on Britain's M25 motorway, which circumnavigates London. On the most heavily traveled 14-mile (23 km) section (junction 10 to 16) of the M25 variable speed limits combined with automated enforcement have been in force since 1995. Initial results indicated savings in journey times, smoother-flowing traffic, and a fall in the number of accidents, so the implementation was made permanent in 1997. Further trials on the M25 have been thus far proven inconclusive.
Japan has installed sensors on its highways to notify motorists that a car is stalled ahead.
A 2008 paper was written about using RFID for dynamic traffic light sequences. It circumvents or avoids problems that usually arise with systems that use image processing and beam interruption techniques. RFID technology with appropriate algorithm and database were applied to a multi-vehicle, multi-lane and multi-road junction area to provide an efficient time management scheme. A dynamic time schedule was worked out for the passage of each column. The simulation showed the dynamic sequence algorithm could adjust itself even with the presence of some extreme cases. The paper said the system could emulate the judgment of a traffic police officer on duty, by considering the number of vehicles in each column and the routing proprieties.
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Communication cooperation on the road includes car-to-car, car-to-infrastructure, and vice versa. Data available from vehicles are acquired and transmitted to a server for central fusion and processing. These data can be used to detect events such as rain (wiper activity) and congestion (frequent braking activities). The server processes a driving recommendation dedicated to a single or a specific group of drivers and transmits it wirelessly to vehicles. The goal of cooperative systems is to use and plan communication and sensor infrastructure to increase road safety. The definition of cooperative systems in road traffic is according to the European Commission:
ITS World Congress is a world-wide annual event to promote and showcase ITS technologies. ERTICO – ITS Europe, ITS America and ITS Japan work closely together in the preparation of the annual ITS World Congress and Exhibition attracting over 8,000 people. Each year the event takes place in a different region (Europe, Americas or Asia-Pacific).
The Network of National ITS Associations is a grouping of national ITS interests formed in order to ensure that ITS knowledge and information is transmitted to all actors at the local and national level – such as small and medium sized companies – and support ITS promotion from the ground up. It was officially launched 7 October 2004 in London. The Network currently consists of 27 member organisations. The Network Secretariat is at ERTICO – ITS Europe.
ERTICO – ITS Europe is a multi-sector, public/private partnership pursuing the development and deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems and Services (ITS). We connect public authorities, industry players, infrastructure operators, users, national ITS associations and other organisations together and work to bring “Intelligence into Mobility”. The ERTICO work programme focuses on initiatives to improve transport safety, security and network efficiency whilst taking into account measures to reduce environmental impact. Our vision is of a future transport system working towards zero accidents, zero delays and fully informed people, where services are affordable and seamless, the environment is protected, privacy is respected and security is provided.
In the United States, each state has an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) chapter that holds a yearly conference to promote and showcase ITS technologies and ideas. Representatives from each Department of Transportation (state, cities, towns, and counties) within the state attend this conference.