Integration: Key to worldwide adoption of ITS

Integration: Key to worldwide adoption of ITS

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) gather traffic data in real time from various wired or wireless communication-based technologies, such as video surveillance, communications, sensors, and detectors, to provide improved safety and efficiency on the road and in transit.

According to a recent market report published by Transparency Market Research, "Intelligent Transportation System Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast, 2013 - 2019", the global market is expected to reach a value of $30.2 billion by 2019, at a compound annual growth rate of 11.1%from 2013 to 2019. Reasons behind this rising demand can be contributed to increased congestion in metropolitan areas around the world, especially in Asia.

The development and deployment of ITS not only reduces traffic, but also reduces the number of accidents, and improves quality of life by controlling vehicle emission levels with the decrease in time spent on the road, stuck in traffic. In addition, these systems reduce financial burdens on countries by reducing fuel consumption and traveling delays.

As reported by MarketsandMarkets in “Intelligent Transport Systems Market – Trends, Adoption & Worldwide Forecasts (2012 – 2017)”, North America is currently the market leader, followed by Europe and APAC. As for the remaining regions, Middle East and Africa are the largest contributors. Just in the last two years, increasing numbers of ITS have been deployed all over the world.

KEY EQUIPMENT, DEVICES AND TECHNOLOGY

The most common ITS equipment includes, traffic signal controllers; dynamic message signs; environmental sensors; surveillance cameras for detection or monitoring; infrared sensors; freeway ramp meters; video switches; transportation sensor systems; field master stations for traffic signals; transit priority at traffic signals; street lights; and inductive-loop detectors.

These devices and equipment are integrated together to provide key traffic data, through wireless or 3G/4G networks, back to the traffic control center to collect and process, once the data is aggregated and translated into information, the information will be disseminated to the public through various methods.

As ITS equipment is always installed in outdoor locations, they must be able to operate despite harsh outdoor conditions such as changing weather and temperature, storms, dust, shock, vibration, and other factors.

Ethernet technology is the backbone of communication between all these interconnected devices and equipment. “After the traffic control signals and information are converted into IP packets, they are transmitted through fiber-optic cables, which are connected via Ethernet switches, and sent to the traffic management center for analysis,”said Mitch Yang, President of EtherWAN.

IMPORTANT FEATURES OF ITS

Truly integrated ITS must have a powerful, scalable management system and include several important features.

1)  The system must be able to gather multiple forms of data in a given time frame, such as the flow of traffic, average speed, headway, peak occupancy rate, vehicle length, vehicle type, etc. However, the full integration of all different equipment and devices are especially important in an ITS if accurate real-time information is to be acquired. Therefore, the system must provide an open interface for successful integration with the platform. 
2)  After the data is collected, the system must be able to simultaneously transmit it to multiple locations, as the collected data is usually sent back to the data center, or formatted in a certain way and stored in HDDs for investigation purposes when a situation calls for it. On the other hand, the data is sent in real time to the traffic control centers and related departments for real-time calculations and analysis to provide real-time traffic information.
3)  The system must be able to differentiate between the different types of traffic conditions, as well as detect different events that are happening on the road. Based on the information gathered from each point of detection, the system will process and analyze the data in real time. Coupling this with video surveillance, operators will be able to determine if congestion is caused by an accident or simply from rush hour. Depending on local traffic laws and regulations, the cameras will start to record if an incident occurs, or the camera will zoom in on the scene where an event is occurring for a better view. Also, depending on the level of integration with local public safety officials, an alert will immediately be sent to their stations to inform them of an incident.
4)  An ITS must have a mass notification system, able to send road conditions, events, traveling time, etc. through messages to different variable message signs, broadcast stations, television stations, cellphones, handhelds, websites, and so on, to advise drivers of the best route to take to their destinations.   
5)  The system must have a centralized emergency function, to alert all emergency units or other related departments if something goes wrong. For example, if an accident occurs or a power supply box is opened for unknown reasons, the command center can notify related personnel to address the issue on site.
*  Other important features of an ITS include notification search and a calculation feature to search and record all events such as vehicle counts, images, flow, accidents, and system malfunction. Having the ability to help with decision making by gathering or analyzing data based on past events of different traffic incidents can also greatly assist the operators in terms of policy making and for any traffic management department to help with decision making, such as smart ticketing.

ITS in Intersections
As ITS is used for highways and regular urban traffic management, slight differences must be noted. ITS solutions for a city or town will be much more complex than ITS solutions for the highway. For a city, ITS solutions must have control of traffic lights for up to thousands of intersections. ITS must also be integrated with the parking facilities to inform drivers where they can park and how many spaces are open in which specific lots. ITS will also be integrated with other infrastructures that are present in the town. There are also more regulated zones in a city, where certain areas might not be open to certain vehicles at a certain time. If there were any violators who trespassed in certain zones during the prohibited hours, alerts will be sent to the traffic control center for necessary action to be taken.

ITS in Highways
As for highways, instead of intersections, the focus would be put on the tollbooths and more accident prone areas. Video surveillance and IVS can be used to identify license plates for those who violate traffic laws, such as speeding or straying from the lane, and alert the control center. Integration with emergency services are especially important on highways and tunnels as immediate help needs to be at the scene of the accident if it were to occur. Bridges and tunnels will pay more mind to the vehicle count and types as exceeding capacity, in number of vehicles or weight of vehicles, can be very dangerous and harmful to the infrastructure.

STANDARDS AND REGULATIONS

As traffic rules and regulations are subject to its local jurisdictions, it has been difficult coming up with an open standard for interoperability between ITS equipment, which is another contributing factor to the difficulties integrators around the world encounter when implementing and deploying ITS. Once an open standard for ITS is created, it will be crucial to successful policy formulation and project delivery.

The International Organization of Standardization has also worked to provide some standards and requirements to follow for ITS. Currently, the most common ones, with 24 observing countries and 26 participating countries, are ISO/TC 204 (transport information and control systems), ISO/ TC 22 (road vehicles), ISO/TC 104 (freight containers), and ISO/TC 211 (geographic information/geomatics).

The standards are designed to provide a minimum set of requirements for which manufacturers must meet and may exceed, whether it pertains to operating environments, controller units, malfunction management units, uniformity in cabinet layout and field-terminal labeling, auxiliary devices, and mechanical standards for steel and aluminum cabinets.

Contractors must follow NEMA's standards for product quality assurance, grounding equipment, and after-installation testing. In Europe, countries employing ITS follow standards set by European Committee of Standardization (CEN) and European Telecommunications Standards Institute. The widely adopted standards for road systems — DATEX and DATEX II — were developed for information exchange between traffic management centers, traffic information centers, and service providers, are maintained by CEN/ TC 278.

“By the end of 2015, there will be deployed a so-called emergency call system. It is a service that when a vehicle crashes, the onboard unit automatically calls an emergency number. It is not something that is only technology based, but there is also an organization implication. There will be a unique emergency number at the European level, where emergency departments like the police or the hospital can answer and send help. This is something in the domain of the ITS as well because one of the objectives is to reduce the number of incidents and death. All vehicles will be produced with an onboard unit; it willalready be equipped with this feature and work across Europe,” stated Fabrizio Arneodo, ITS Design and Development Manager at 5T, a public company owned by the Piedmont Region, the City,and the Province of Turin, responsible for managing traffic and providing mobility information in that region.

"The international character of this system is reflected in its availability in more than 20 countries, as well as the multilingual staff of the monitoring centers. So even when being abroad, one can communicate in one's own language, whereas the monitoring center instructs the police or emergency services in the local language,” added Erika Gorge, Corporate Communications Manager of Bosch Security Systems.

As for the remaining countries and regions, those with ITS societies are working hard with public administrations to push and develop more standards to increase the interoperability of ITS.

INTEGRATION PROBLEMS AND OTHER CHALLENGES

For a complex system such as ITS, integration is bound to be one of the biggest challenges, however, it is also one of the most important aspects of the system. Not only does it have to integrate with legacy systems, it also has to be able to integrate with future systems if the traffic managing system were to expand.

The many different standards from the region and the international standards that exist can also pose as a problem.

Furthermore, the ITS might be integrated with local law enforcement or emergency services depending on the local laws and regulations of each city, town, or state. Other challenges faced when deploying ITS include distance that has to be covered for highway monitoring, as the roads tend to continue for long stretches. Steady, reliable, real-time transmission of large, high-resolution video file and other data are the most important requirements in ITS.

In some places, ITS equipment is expected to last up to 15 years, emphasizing the strict requirements proposed by the government. Therefore, ITS faces jurisdictional and organization challenges, as well as the lack of a common open ITS standard, and the level of expertise within local and regional transportation agencies. The level of integration between different departments and authorities remains a key challenge to having widespread, efficient ITS. For example, whether the ITS policy making and implementation authority resides in a national, regional, or state level, or if the author of ITS decision making is in a single or multiple agencies.

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