‘Intelligent’ transportation: The road to the next generation of mobility

This is National Infrastructure Week — the week where organizations, individuals and policy makers on the local, state and national level come together to bring forward and discuss ideas of how to tackle the transportation issues that face our current and future infrastructure needs.

At the Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America), we contribute to the conversations and policy debates by bringing to light the technologies that can be integrated into both existing and new infrastructure to create safer, more efficient, sustainable, accessible and equitable mobility.  

{mosads}We call these collective technologies “intelligent transportation” systems or ITS, which includes everything from traditional traffic management systems such as data driven dynamic signage and smart signals to innovations such as crowd-sourced traffic information. The cloud has transformed transportation, creating “mobility-on-demand” services such as ride-hailing and micro-transit.


Cars are getting safer as auto manufacturers are installing lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, back-up and side cameras and other driver assistance systems. General Motors rolled out its first vehicle with Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC) to support Vehicle-to-X communications (X being “Vehicle,” or “Infrastructure” such as traffic signals, or “Pedestrian”) this year, and extensive research is being conducted on creating safe and highly automated “driverless” vehicles.

State and local departments of transportation are looking at ways to deploy vehicle-to-infrastructure communications. The public is becoming more aware of what intelligent transportation is and what they can do to make driving safer and chances are you either have or are beginning to use these systems in their many forms.

ITS America members, private companies, public agencies and the research and academic communities have spent the last year looking at public policy initiatives that would drive the deployment of ITS.  We recently released the product of those discussions — a public policy roadmap “The Road Ahead: Intelligent and Transformative Transportation, the Next Generation of Mobility.” The key points include:

  • Providing mobility solutions and, therefore, equities into the system that do not currently exist for seniors, the disabled and those who need more mobility options.

  • Getting more bang for less buck from our current infrastructure systems. The “sharing economy” expands mobility by leveraging idle vehicles. This is exemplified in new car sharing, ride-sharing, and ride-hailing services, such as Zipcar, Via, Uber and Lyft and we are seeing these options expand from cities to smaller communities and rural areas.

  • Squeezing more out of less infrastructure is critical. Smart parking features are already becoming commonplace in communities and other services that match drivers with parking spots and congestion pricing paired with road capacity and trip demand can help achieve shorter, more predictable travel.

  • Including the deployment of broadband networks in any infrastructure legislation, including broadband funding for rural or otherwise hard-to-serve areas. This also includes antennas, fiber optic wireline connectivity, and spectrum to handle the explosion of data coming from millions of vehicle, traffic signals, road sensors, and more.

  • Supporting a technology-driven approach to spectrum sharing between Wi-Fi and Dedicated Short Range Communication that allows Wi-Fi use in the 5.9 GHz safety spectrum band only when we are certain that “sharing” of spectrum preserves the safety and utility of DSRC.

  • Increasing direct federal spending to bridge the gaps between research and development and deployment of new transportation mobility and infrastructure technologies.

  • Addressing the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund as part of an infrastructure proposal or tax reform.

  • Considering a discretionary grant program with new funding for a large-scale and complex metropolitan, regional, intermodal, and multimodal vehicle-to-infrastructure projects that will leverage advances in connected and autonomous vehicles, including public transit and freight, and will be critical to the nation’s economic output and mobility needs in the 21st century.

  • Including a toolkit of transportation funding mechanisms — including direct federal spending, revolving loan programs, direct federal loan programs, tax-preferred financing, and public-private-partnerships.

The most critical function of intelligent transportation is increasing safety. Last year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 96 people a day, or 35,092 people, died in accidents on U.S. roadways. That is a 7.2 percent increase from 2014.  

In addition, with our roads, bridges, and public transit systems largely built in the 20th century aging and increasingly outmoded, it is critical that we take steps to maintain America’s ability to compete in the global 21st century economy.

If there is one thing we all agree on, it is that when it comes to our nation’s infrastructure, we must work together to find answers. Many of the answers to improving what we already have in place can be found in these new technologies. We hope this week will spur some new, creative ideas on how to move forward with the critical work of deploying these technologies necessary for a safer, more efficient, sustainable and equitable transportation system.

Regina Hopper is the President & CEO of ITS America.  A former Emmy-award winning correspondent with CBS News, she comes to intelligent transportation from trucking, telecommunications and energy.  

The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.

Tags Intelligent transportation system Research and Innovative Technology Administration Sustainable transport Transport Transportation engineering

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