As more cities enter the era of digitization, city planners and officials are consistently looking for ways to better manage these societies with the help of new and emerging technologies. This is particularly true when it comes to transit and is one of the reasons why Intelligent transportation systems have become an indispensable part of every developing Smart City. Not only do these systems offer endless possibilities for application but their use is not limited to just traffic control anymore. They provide a smarter approach to traditional transportation systems, with better efficiency, safety, and security along with addressing common transit issues such as congestion.
Leveraging this type of technology is considered key to achieving efficient mobility in cities which explains why so many countries have begun or are considering implementing it in the near future. Let’s take a closer look at what an Intelligent Transport System is, how it works, and how it can be applied for the improvement of transportation networks.
What is an Intelligent Transport System?
An Intelligent transportation system is part of the Internet of Things, consisting of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) technology that applies both wireless and wireline communications-based information and electronics technologies. ITS systems are most commonly used in transportation and traffic management systems to improve the safety, efficiency, and sustainability of various transportation networks, reduce traffic congestion as well as enhance user experience.
ITS systems consist of state-of-the-art technologies that are wireless, electronic, and operate through automation. As a whole, these technologies hold the potential to integrate different vehicles used in transit such as trucks and personal vehicles, along with various systems and infrastructure. In-vehicle technologies and automation allow great precision in the case of docking buses for example, along with automated guideways and collision avoidance systems. The technology itself relies on a broad range of applications and sensors that process and share information to connect vehicle data and location to other vehicles and modes of transport, including pedestrians or bicyclists, and local or remote infrastructure that is linked to a cloud.
ITS is already creating a significant impact in the transportation industry through applications such as electronic toll collection, ramp meters, traffic light cameras, traffic-signal coordination, transit signal priority, and traveler-information systems. Implementing these systems come with a variety of benefits for both the general public and commercial users, along with a reduced environmental impact and economic gain. Experts in the field generally classify Intelligent Transport Systems into three categories:
In terms of mobility, ITS technology aims to provide the shortest route between an origin and the final destination, taking into account factors such as distance, time, and the consumption of energy, and then comparing it to a data-rich environment in order to calculate the most optimal route for the journey. This can help with the monitoring and management of various transportation networks and systems. Traffic signals can be adjusted accordingly, transit operators can be managed dynamically and emergency and maintenance services can be promptly dispatched if needed.
When an Intelligent Transport System is used for the purpose of increasing safety it can give speed warnings along slippery roadways, effectively reducing crashes and fatalities, a problem that claims the lives of thousands of Americans each year. An ITS system can provide advisories and warnings to travelers and it can also be applied in vehicle safety applications and emergency management.
Intelligent transport systems are considered vital to solving the problem of growing emissions and congestion in cities. Real-time data regarding traffic can help with the making of informed decisions that improve efficiency across all transportation systems and modes. By improving the flow of vehicles from day-to-day trips, a significant amount of fuel is saved, therefore there are fewer harmful emissions being released into the atmosphere which creates a positive environmental impact. Travelers are able to get to their destinations faster and in a more sustainable manner and there are fewer cars on the roads.
How do Intelligent Transport Systems work?
Intelligent Transportation Systems can differ depending on the purpose, however, the principles of their functions remain similar. Developers of such advanced technologies use the latest tech available such as Computer Vision, Deep Learning, Edge Computing, IoT, and others in order to create solutions. An ITS model typically combines different stages such as data collection, data annotation, data analysis, training, and testing of AI models. Most common applications include speed control, capacity management, increased efficiency and safety in multimodal mobility, reduction in fuel usage, and better incident management.
Applications of Intelligent Transport Systems
Automation is one of the many advantages these types of systems offer as various activities that were traditionally dependent on human intervention no longer require such involvement.
Additionally, the performance of road networks can be closely monitored and adjusted, in real-time. Data that was previously collected by expensive infrastructure can now be gathered through newer and more abundant data collection sources. Real-time data analytics further aid in the analysis of historic data as this task is undertaken by advanced intelligence systems.
Another impressive aspect comes down to the wide array of channels through which users can now access real-time travel information and make choices from there (as opposed to following road signs only), by using their mobile devices or in-car systems.
ITS can aid in the optimization of trips in the form of route guidance, decrease unnecessary traveled miles, and reduce time spent along congested motorways and streets whilst promoting the use of additional modes.
Another great benefit is the improvement of overall air quality and the reduction of reliance on foreign oil. When applied to the system management of vehicles, highways, and transit, they can effectively reduce the consumption of fuel by facilitating optimal travel routes that take into consideration all aspects of planning and timing along with better control of accelerations / decelerations and stopping, reducing time spent idling. This reduces congestion and improves the efficiency of all vehicles including those for personal use, commercial such as delivery or public transportation, and emergency services (including improved response time).
Why do we need Intelligent Transport Systems?
Intelligent Transportation systems have the capacity to solve a lot of the traditional problems we see in the transport industry. We’ve witnessed the rising levels of congestion in cities increase the time people spend traveling, not to mention the strain this has on infrastructure and the billions of dollars which are spent every year on maintenance, road accidents, and fatalities that result from crashes. ITS offers promising solutions to all of this by improving efficiency in transit, increasing safety, optimizing various systems and processes, saving money and fuel as well as alleviating the effects transportation has on the environment.
Reducing our collective carbon footprint in the form of GHG emissions is fundamental to meeting sustainability goals and ensuring that we preserve a future for our planet and the next generations. With the help of ITS, the transportation sector (one of the biggest polluters on earth) can begin to shift towards more sustainable and effective practices. Digitization of the transport sector is the next big step in this direction according to experts, along with other objectives. The Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy underlines the importance of milestones such as deploying automated mobility at a large, global scale by 2030 which is said to be a key element to eliminating fatalities across transit networks and all modes of transport.
Integration of such advanced technologies is no easy task so it’s expected that a significant amount of effort, time, qualified personnel, and resources will be needed to utilize this technology and use it to our advantage. The benefits are truly worth the investment and effort and as technology continues to advance we’re excited to see what the future holds for the transport sector and mobility as a whole.