INTELLIGENT TRANSPORTATION SYSTEM
In the 1980s, a small group of transportation professionals recognized the impact that the computing and communications revolutions of the Information Age could have on surface transportation. The idea of IT’S—originally intelligent vehicle-highway systems—was born.ITS harnesses new technology to improve the safety, efficiency, and convenience of surface transportation, both for people and for goods. A glance at the state of transportation today—roads equipped with electronic tolling and variable message signs, passenger vehicles with navigation products and emergency notification systems, commercial vehicles equipped for nonstop weighing and cross-border credentials checking, transit vehicles containing location and communications systems, infrastructure to automatically track and support the better management of traffic flow—confirms that ITS is gaining widespread acceptance within the transportation community and by the general public.
At one level, ITS has been made possible by overall technological trends of the late 20th century, including ever-less-expensive and increasingly widespread computing power and communications technology. This new technology has enabled ITS products and services to become more sophisticated, reliable, and affordable over a relatively short period of time. However, an exploration of the evolution of ITS makes it clear that technology is only half the story. The success of ITS has also required careful attention to institutional and social concerns and to finding new ways of doing business. Notable among these is the focus in ITS on public-private cooperation, the linchpin of ITS since its inception.
The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) recognized the promise of ITS to enhance mobility and safety and to reduce fuel consumption and emissions without the formerly exclusive reliance on an expanding physical infrastructure. DOT has provided support for research and development, architecture and standards development, and field tests and model deployments. This public support has occurred alongside and in cooperation with private-sector efforts to create and market viable ITS products and services.
The creation of ITS America, a nonprofit industry association, has been instrumental in generating the momentum to identify, catalyze, develop, and implement ITS solutions. Besides serving as a focal point for the new ITS industry, ITS America is a utilized federal advisory committee to DOT, helping foster the connection between public and private partners in the ongoing development of ITS.