What is ITS?
ITS or "Intelligent Transportation Systems" is a broad range of diverse technologies which, when applied to our current transportation system, can help improve safety, reduce congestion, enhance mobility, minimize environmental impacts, save energy, and promote economic productivity. ITS technologies are varied and include information processing, communications, control and electronics. The challenges lie in the diversity of the technology, which is highly interdisciplinary, ranging from physics to psychology.
The future of ITS is promising. Yet, ITS itself is anything but futuristic. Already, real systems, products and services are at work throughout the country. Still, the wide-scale development and deployment of these technologies represent a true revolution in the way we, as a nation, think about transportation. Some examples of ITS products and services include the following:
- Collect and transmit dynamic information on traffic conditions and transit schedules for travelers, whether they are at home, in the office or en route. Alerted to hazards and delays, they are able to change their plans to minimize inconvenience.
- Expand the capacity of our highways by reducing the number of traffic incidents, clearing them more quickly when they occur, rerouting traffic flow around them and automatically collecting tolls.
- Improve the productivity of commercial, transit and public safety fleets by using automated tracking and dispatch systems, weigh-in-motion systems and automated inspection systems that speed vehicles through much of the red tape associated with intra and inter-state commerce.
- Assist drivers in reaching a desired destination with navigational systems enhanced with path finding or route guidance. Stored directories that are part of such systems will provide information on nearby businesses and tourist attractions.
Congress has recognized the value of the ITS program by including large multi-million dollar ITS allocations in each of the U.S. Department of Transportation's surface transportation acts beginning with the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) as well as the National Economic Crossroads Transportation Efficiency Act of 1997 (NEXTEA). Over the next 20 years, the U.S. market for ITS products and services is expected to grow to encompass 600,000 projects costing an estimated $420 billion. Public infrastructure-driven markets in the U.S. metropolitan areas are projected to exceed $80 billion.