Twelve Cornerstones of Next-Generation Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS)
It’s always a challenging endeavor to delineate major evolutionary periods for any technology-based industry. The temptation to apply broad, sweeping generalizations for technology and innovation can be seen as over-simplifying a complex, non-linear environment. However, one can theoretically classify certain eras by the functional characteristics of the systems designed and deployed in order to generate a tool for assisting in market research, assessment of emerging technologies and generating forecasts for future trends and anticipated market segments. For example, one can conclude that the first phase in the history of ITS (ITS 1.0), generally included technologies that were analog, passive, static, stand-alone systems that essentially facilitated one-way communications between the operator and the traveler. In the mid 1990’s, we started to see ITS solutions incorporate digital, quasi-dynamic functional capabilities. In the early 2000’s, the industry deployed system functionality that included fully dynamic solutions, utilizing true bi-directional communications, supported by dynamic or “active” operations (or ITS 2.0). So what’s next?
One can surmise that the ITS industry is currently undergoing a significant paradigm shift, based on the emergence of new technologies and innovative operational strategies. We’ve reached a clear demarcation point in the evolutionary history of ITS. Next-generation (Next-gen) Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) will expand on functionality delivered as a part of the “ITS 2.0” era, and greatly expand to include real-time, automated, user/provider collaboration and ad-hoc, peer-to-peer communications solutions. Next-gen ITS will also expand beyond the straightforward application of leading edge technologies to include the utilization of social analytics and behavior management strategies, to address transportation-related demand. Next-gen ITS will include collaboration capabilities provided by new, connected, real-time, context-aware, location-based technologies. All of the next-gen technologies, strategies and methodologies will be built on open, accessible architectures and support enriched monetization opportunities within a comprehensive, sustainable environment. In summary, the overarching framework for next-gen ITS can further defined by the twelve functional cornerstones that include:
The following provides an introduction to the aforementioned “cornerstones” that will formulate next-gen ITS.
The mobile platform has already made significant inroads to the transportation industry, and become a primary building block for many of today’s ITS solutions. The emergence and continued saturation of smart phones and rollout of “connect vehicles” technologies has generated a significant mobile platform for ITS. Next-gen ITS will greatly expand on the use of existing and emerging mobile technologies, and build upon enhanced positioning protocols found in next-generation cell phone technologies, most notably advanced GPS and LTE (4G) wireless technologies. Next-gen ITS will capitalize on hyper-focused, consumer-driven, mobile applications to deliver tailored, high-resolution traveler information specific to each individual traveler’s requirements. Next-gen ITS will make use of location-based services (LBS) to better localize data and information, and integrate context-aware data and information to provide enhanced, local traveler information applications. Next-gen mobile transportation apps will also be embedded, semantic and automated. Mobile plays a supporting role in a number of the next-gen cornerstones detailed in the following.
“Connected Devices” represent one of most significant advancements in transportation in a long time. The emergence of new sensor, computing and communications devices such as smart phones, RFID and now the vehicle itself, have set the stage for a flood of new data and information sources for the transportation community. The traditional “core, hub and edge” network architecture typically utilized by the transportation community will be incrementally replaced by ad-hoc, self-configuring, peer-to-peer (P2P), machine-to-machine (M2M), point-to-multipoint, mesh network architectures. This will essentially facilitate removal of many of today’s system silos and barriers that prevent a holistic systems approach. The rapid deployment of device-level sensors and wireless communications are enabling the emergence of integrated vehicle data and communication systems, also known as “connected vehicle”. The emergence of X2X connectivity, including Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) communications and data exchange will enable hyper-local management of transportation systems, enhance optimization of transportation networks, and implement greatly improved safety and efficiencies throughout all transportation systems. X2X connectivity will also include connectivity to the cloud, (X2C). Cloud-based regional network architectures will provide an overarching, regional platform for managing, warehousing and archiving data, and establish a centralized processing and data exchange platform for third-party developers. An example of current rollouts of this model includes the recent partnership between Toyota and Microsoft to develop a vehicle-centric cloud platform for next-generation telematics with Microsoft’s Azure cloud service. The goal of the partnership is to complete a world-wide, cloud-based network by 2015. In addition, connected vehicles will also provide a platform for effectively delivering user-based and mileage-based charging schemes. Next-gen connectivity will also include the connecting of pedestrians with vehicles (V2P), infrastructure (P2I) and the cloud (P2C). The primary communications architecture for the delivery of next-gen ITS will include standards-compliant, short-range capillary wireless system, attached to a standards-compliant, cellular gateway meshed with public and private backhaul communications networks. Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC), Long Term Evolution (LTE) and IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi wireless communications technologies and protocols will provide the primary communications architectures for deploying next-gen ITS services.
Next-generation ITS will continue to implement and expand on dynamic, real-time and near real-time capabilities, and facilitate continued migration from static, passive systems to dynamic, active traffic management systems. Real-time management capabilities will facilitate wide deployment of Active Traffic Management systems (Hard-Shoulder-running, reconfigurable road geometrics, variable pricing schemes, etc) and Active Traffic and Travel Demand Management systems. Real-time traveler information systems will continue to be enriched, with refined granularity and enhanced data and information-quality through the addition of real-time, location- aware technologies. Embedded system monitoring capabilities will also be prevalent in next-gen ITS. This will include real-time benchmarking and analytics features that facilitate real-time evaluation and production of performance measures, and also facilitate the generation of predictive analytics for conditional forecasting of transportation systems. Modeling and simulation will continue to move into the “real-time space”. The ability to generate transportation models and conduct real-time simulation will enhance operator understanding of system characteristics as well as aid researchers in better understanding transportation system environments at both the micro- and macroscopic levels. Real-time system monitoring will also facilitate real-time inventory and change management. Finally, the aggregation of real-time tools and services will ultimately deliver comprehensive route management from origin to destination. A large driving force behind the migration to a real-time operational environment, besides the emergence of new technologies, is legislation outlined in SAFETEA-LU Section 1201. The legislation requires the “capability to monitor, in real-time, the traffic and travel conditions of the major highways of the United States and to share that information to improve surface transportation system security, address congestion, improve response to weather events and surface transportation incidents, and to facilitate national and regional highway traveler information”.
Next generation ITS will see the continued “convergence” of many existing transportation systems and the additional integration of outside systems that interface with ITS, further mitigating limitations established by stove-piped, stand-alone systems. The continued integration will ultimately implement an interconnected, intermodal, interoperable “system of systems”. The integration of traffic management systems, such as signal systems, transit systems, freeway management systems, toll systems and parking management systems will implement greater management capabilities from a big picture perspective, as well as support the implementation of analytics, both performance-based as well as predictive, that operate and manage the transportation network as a whole. In addition, Integrated Corridor Management will implement operations and management functional capabilities that better address needs based at a corridor level. Next gen ITS will see Integrated Performance Management applications that conduct benchmarking, analytics, evaluation and process assessments that will facilitate process improvement capabilities, all in real time Next-gen ITS will also begin to integrate other peripheral systems and related agency departments typically not included in ITS such as GIS, 911 CAD/AVL, transit, law enforcement, emergency management and first responder systems, as well as construction, land-use, land development and utility departments. Next-gen ITS will also reach to ports, airports, and freight management. Next-gen ITS will see the integration of outside agencies and services such as the banking industry, telecoms and Internet Service Providers (ISPs). Finally, next generation ITS will see the integration of ITS in the overall planning and design of urban environments, from start to finish. Combined, the aforementioned steps towards large scale integration will necessitate national and international standards, and an increase in regional operations and development of regional operating entities.
As previously noted, the integration of systems will move transportation towards a “system of systems”, thus facilitating enhanced levels of automation between existing, stand-alone systems. The next generation of the internet will facilitate automated data and information exchange, or the automated “push” and “pull” of data and information between peers. Next-gen web technologies, including the semantic web will transition the web from a web of pages to a web of data, and through the use of machine-readable metadata, add meaning to web-based data and information. Traffic management systems and transportation systems will also see increased levels of automation. Early examples of this include Open Road Tolling; DMS travel time systems and electronic payment systems. Next-gen ITS automation will also include automated data and information exchange between traditional ITS, such as Road Weather Information Systems (RWIS), Virtual Weigh Stations, toll systems, transit systems and fleet management systems, as well as between data and information stores outside of the transportation environment. Next-gen ITS will also include expansion of automated consumer services, such as travel management tools, end-to-end route guidance, location information, traveler information and transportation education.
Next-generation ITS will include increased accessibility and “openness” on a number of levels. “Open Data” initiatives, originating in 2009, have enabled transportation agencies to capitalize on the growing capacity and sophistication of public intelligence. By making datasets available to an unlimited pool of resources, agency staffs can supplement their internal knowledge-base, and expand their potential for innovation of transportation solutions. “Open Data” Initiatives have also proven to provide an excellent vehicle for expanding public outreach and enhancing public engagement. By providing open Application Program Interfaces (APIs) and open-access platforms, citizens and application developers are capable of participating in day-to-day government activity, providing real-time feedback and generating application solutions. Open Data also allows public agencies to receive valuable input on the condition of existing data sets as well as insight for potentially enhancing and improving existing datasets and data management protocols. Open Data also allows institutional organizations to receive input with regards to new data needs within the transportation community. Open Source applications will also begin to become prevalent in the ITS industry. The emergence of open mobile platforms such as Google’s Android OS will provide an inexpensive, yet powerful platform for delivering “open” next-gen ITS applications, as well as provide a platform for the development of new private market segments. As a result, new Open Platforms will emerge, allowing third-party development and the emergence of commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications for both citizens and government agencies. However, the emergence and mainstreaming of technologies for next-generation transportations tools has also widened and depended the gap between those who have the capacity to access new transportation technologies and those that have difficulty, for whatever reason. The so called “digital divide” within the transportation ecosystem is present at a number of levels, including physical, educational, technological and financial. Next-gen ITS include significant focus at crossing these barriers and improving accessibility across the board.
The citizen’s (traveler) role will become increasingly more important in the overall approach to developing ITS and transportation solutions. Government 2.0 (Gov 2.0 or Open Gov) platforms such as SeeClickFix and CitySourced have recently emerged that facilitate direct, two-way communications between government agencies and the citizen. These platforms have proven to be highly efficient at engaging citizens with government processes, soliciting input, advice and response regarding a number of government functions, and provide a resource for inner- and inter-agency collaboration. Crowdsourcing, Open Data, Open Platforms and Social media are key facilitators in the emergence of this technology platform, and very useful for transportation agencies. Consumer-driven solutions will become an integral part of next-gen ITS applications. Next-gen ITS will also include the continued emergence and expansion of Peer-to-Peer Transportation Resource Sharing. This type of peer-to-peer collaboration can be found in examples such as ridesharing applications, where third party applications facilitate communications and collaboration between citizens in order to coordinate ridesharing, car sharing, where citizens directly share their vehicles through peer-to-peer platforms, and transportation resource sharing, including parking collaboration, which let citizens lease parking spaces, driveway space, and other personal parking areas to those looking for available parking. Citizens can register with the app and immediately begin leasing their driveway space or parking spaces during times they are at work, away on vacation or simply away from home for an afternoon. A key challenge to the continued implementation of Gov 2.0 platforms will be the mitigation of barriers that prohibit accessibility by any segment of the public.
Most transportation professionals would probably agree that the greatest potential for improvements to transportation network safety and efficiencies is people-based, or “social”. Next-gen ITS will expand through the use of sociological engineering and behavioral management strategies to optimize the human element of transportation systems. The social cornerstone will include increased contributions from sociology, psychology and the cognitive science fields, as we look to implement behavioral management solutions that directly and indirectly support traffic and demand management. Next-gen ITS will utilize social analytics to develop motivational demand management tools. Technologies, social engineering and gaming mechanics will work in concert to implement value propositions and modification of traveler behavior that benefit system efficiencies and implement greater levels of safety in our transportation networks. For example, social tools will be used to discourage travel during peak periods, encourage more efficient use of vehicles, encourage better, optimized use of transportation resources and implement new education programs that benefit the traveler and the transportation systems as a whole. Another example can be found in the ITS 2.0 deployment of the Zipcar service model. Zipcar not only provides a needs-based service, but also adjusts the way people think about their individual use of cars, such as consideration of combining tasks for single trips, or eliminating trips altogether. Again, more of a psychological solution supported by technology. Another key social element of next-gen ITS will be the increased focus and optimization of feedback loops. Feedback loops are key to optimizing user-system relationships and will gain a larger role in how we operate and manage our next-generation transportation systems. “Social” will also include addressing issues related to those resistant to new technologies, by making transportation technologies and services more accessible with regards to general approachability, cost, technology requirements to operate, and education and understanding of how to interface and use transportation technologies.
Next-generation augmented information and virtualization tools will provide researchers, operators, and more importantly travelers with new tools to monitor and analyze real-time traffic and transportation conditions. New applications such as Augmented Virtual Environments, also known as Geo-Immersion, allow transportation researchers and operators to view virtual transportation environments in real time. Next-gen ITS will also see large-scale advancements in augmented real-time traffic mapping and real-time virtual models for regional transportation networks. Real-time virtual models augment existing mapping resources such as GIS by integrating real-time data from a cadre of sources including CCTV, vehicle detectors and personal computing devices with embedded GPS, compass and accelerometers. The resulting integration represents real world, real time conditions within a virtual environment. Augmented reality applications will also expand and be an integral component to next-gen ITS. These applications mesh real-time traffic conditions and other real-world location data and information with real-time, context-aware location information. In addition, augmented reality applications will mesh hyper-local location data with traveler information in order to deliver higher-resolution, real-time value to travelers. Next-gen ITS will also see significant migration of operations to virtual platforms, allowing remote or non-centralized operations staff or supporting contractors the ability to operate and manage ITS from non-traditional locations. In addition, new real-time “predictive” and “prescriptive”analytics will be implemented to forecast virtual traffic and transportation conditions, and generate tailored traveler information based on unique, individual needs and preferences. Finally, artificial intelligence will be used in conjunction with predictive analytics and other forecasting and system enrichment tools to implement advanced operational support functions.
Next-gen ITS will include increased opportunities for monetization and financing throughout the entire life-cycle of the systems. Public-private partnerships (P3) funding mechanisms will be thrust into mainstream out of pure necessity. P3-enabling legislation is setting the stage for significant growth and opening the door to many innovative approaches to funding, operating and maintaining transportation systems. Funding such as the model used to fund the I-495 Capital Beltway HOT Lanes project will be critical in the support for next-gen ITS, as well as a great fiscal tool to replace aging infrastructure and providing potential revenue streams for cash-strapped operating entities. Private data resources will also see significant growth and provide a vital resource for operating next-gen ITS. The proliferation of data sources will expand and enhance the private data market, and establish a critical component to the overall data requirements of next-gen ITS. To date, private sector data has been primarily used to provide traveler information to travelers and to provide a resource for performance metrics and evaluation. The next big leap will require private data to fully replace existing data systems required to operate transportation systems. For example, we will need to see private data provide operational data to feed operational algorithms for systems such as ramp metering, traffic signal and incident detection systems. This represents a conceptual shift and approach to the utilization of public data sources. One early move in this direction has seen private data procured to provide the needed data to run automated DMS travel time systems. Legal hurdles will need to be addressed and policy directives will be required to fully integrate private data with traffic management systems, ultimately relieving the need for public agencies to deploy, operate and maintain their own data systems. Next-gen ITS will also see the expansion of privatized operations of transportation systems, through P3 funding vehicles, as well as through service-level agreements and contracted services procurement. Finally, and possibly most importantly, the increased privatization of next-gen ITS will enable the development of potential new revenue streams. This will include the emergence of new revenue models including location-based advertising and other products developed on open data and connected vehicle data. Privatized transportation systems will also see the emergence and proliferation of subscription-based services and wide adoption of variable pricing schemes.
Next-gen ITS will also include enhanced monitoring and “measuring” components throughout the entire planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance life-cycle. Enhanced measurement will not only benefit real-time benchmarking, system analytics and performance measures, but will also support enhanced data management strategies required for the rapid expansion of data entering the ITS environment. Real-time monitoring will also implement enhanced security features, critical for next-gen ITS solutions. Next-gen metrics will also be required to gauge and track sustainability of ITS.
Next-gen ITS must be sustainable across all three pillars of sustainability: Economy, Society and Environment. All processes, materials, planning, design, construction, operations and maintenance will incorporate sustainability goals, measurement tools, and new industry-standard rating indices in their respective phases of the overall project life-cycle. Next-gen ITS will include assessment of all “black” and “green” implications with respect to all aspects of new and existing ITS deployments, as well as analysis of decommissioning and disposal of expired ITS components. Next-gen ITS will also be required to support alternative fuel vehicles, including electric and hybrid platforms. In addition, new transportation infrastructure such as charging stations will provide additional platforms for the development of new ITS solutions. Next-gen ITS solutions will continue to examine any and all potential innovative funding possibilities. This will include continued implementation of monetization schemes, that will assist in implanting new technologies, as well as assist further movement towards privatization of ITS. Many of the next-gen cornerstones mentioned herein will require the standardization of technologies and protocols. V2X solutions will mandate a standardized platform, based on standard communications protocols and data and information formats. The convergence of open source operating systems, semantic web technologies, open data formats, collaborative tools and automated technologies will all require standardization, rolled out in incremental steps. Defragmentation of disparate device (vehicles, smart phones) will be required to adequately roll out X2X components.