Intelligent Traffic Systems Face Legacy Roadblocks

Intelligent Traffic Systems Face Legacy Roadblocks

Transportation projects continue to tackle problems with interoperability and transmission. Meeting sustainable development objectives for better transportation systems remains a challenge.

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) help capitalize on existing infrastructure for optimal operation, said Martial Chevreuil, Executive VP, Strategic Policy and Development, Egis Mobilite.

Traffic systems overall are geared toward cooperation on the regional and national levels to cover greater metropolitan areas, said Cees De Wijs, Global Director for Transport and Logistics, Logica.

The central management mechanism features data fusion algorithms, binding data from various sources into unified response measures, said Lau Thiam Beng, President of ST Electronics (Info-Comm Systems). However, limited integration on higher management levels show fundamental challenges remain unsolved, be it dispersed communication protocols or transmission networks.

Setting Standards
System communication issues are addressed by establishing standard interfaces and protocols regionally or nationwide. "Interoperability requires not only the development of standards, but also peer-to-peer agreements on how, when and with which format that information can be exchanged," Chevreuil said.

"The European Commission has published an ITS Action plan and associated directives, aiming to provide a coordinated approach for ITS deployments," said Vincent Blervaque, Director of Development and Deployment at ERTICO. Deploying EU-wide specifications for traffic management and travel information systems ensure the exchange of information across borders.

A joint effort between public and private sectors is essential. Industry players and public authorities should collaborate to ensure proper standardization and guidelines are followed at all deployment phases, Blervaque said.

In line with the ITS Action Plan, the DATEX standard was developed to exchange information between traffic management/information centers.

In the U.K., the British Urban Traffic Management Control (UTMC) program takes an open-ended approach for effective communication in urban areas. "UTMC makes provisions for multiple vendor solutions by declaring agreed formats for different types of technologies used in traffic management systems," Dixon said. It allows the exchange of information among different traffic management and control tools through a common database.

A major US standards project is the National Transportation Communications for Intelligent Transportation System Protocol (NTCIP). NTCIP maintains and develops ITS standards to allow interoperability between electronic traffic control equipment from different manufacturers.

Following the trend in cooperative systems, a US Department of Transportation initiative focuses on establishing a framework to facilitate interoperability between communication systems. Intellidrive SM, formerly known as Vehicle Infrastructure Integration, enables information sharing between vehicles, vehicles to infrastructure and vehicle to handheld electronic devices.

The push towards standards continues worldwide. India's Department of Information Technology is finalizing the IP surveillance standards for the Punjab province, which will be enacted this year, said Pritpal Singh, Consultant at The Traffic Solutions.

Generally, fiber and copper backbones provide basic connectivity, while wireless is used only when infrastructure is not available or otherwise costly to deploy, said Guy Yair, GM Enterprise LOB, Alvarion.

Information collected for traffic management mostly consists of video from cameras, then synchronized data from traffic light control, road sensors and other control/detection systems. Data from traffic light control and sensors consumes less bandwidth with medium to zero latency, while video streaming requires much more bandwidth with latency of less than100 milliseconds, Yair said.

Wireless technologies meet various transmission needs, such as 3-G, WiFi and WiMAX. Although RF changes in unlicensed frequency bands produce connectivity noise and interference in WLAN, today's 802.11 technology is able to achieve stability and provide reliable coverage, said Susheela Venkataraman, Director IBSG, India and SAARC, Cisco Systems.

Applications are restricted by budget and differ on a case-by-case basis. 3-G is mainly used for data transmission requiring wide area coverage, but lacks the ability to stream video for management purposes and supply true quality of service, Yair said.

WiFi and WiMax provide mesh networking to transmit video and data, Yair said. WiFi supports shorter-range transmission with flexibility but is complex and requires many elements. WiMax allows longer-range transmission with higher base costs, but is more cost effective in terms of reduced capital and operating expenditure.

For mission-critical ITS, Yair suggested using licensed WiMax bands, 2.X, 3.X and 4.9 GHz. These wireless transmission standards connect both traffic light controllers and inductive loop sensors, and delivering enough bandwidth for network cameras.

In addition to long-standing integration and networking issues, installation with minimal disruption of traffic has been a real challenge. Traffic diversion and nighttime installation require extensive experience, said Pascal Lemonnier, ITS Business Development Manager, CS Group.

Last but not least, the value of ITS has yet to be recognized. "Considering accident reductions, fuel and emission reductions and less obvious costs of delay, the pay-back time is often within a couple of years," Dixon said. "Cost-benefit analyses should be carried out by addressing specific problems ITS technologies can help overcome."

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