Intelligent Transportation Systems and the Sustainable Future Of Transport

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With the rise of such technologies as the Internet of Things and intelligent transportation systems comes the inevitable question of how will they fit into our ever-changing world? The huge leaps in technological innovation we’ve made have thrown up more and more data about the way we live and work and increasingly this data indicates, in order for our advances to continue, the need for a shift towards more sustainable ways. Intelligent transport systems are not a new solution, however, their role in creating a secure and sustainable future for transportation will be integral. With their ability to improve and maintain traffic management through the use of connected vehicles and real time data collection, intelligent transportation systems could be applied not only for optimizing public transport services performance but also setting the foundations for a further sustainable development.

With the use of environmentally damaging fossil fuels declining, intelligent transportation systems will need to able to increase fuel efficiency for all connected vehicles while also being open to new, renewable technologies as and when they are brought onto the market. Increased innovation from the renewables sector, coupled with the continued and growing adoption of IT systems, will most likely lead to further development of sustainability-focused vehicle integrated systems that provide further interconnectivity and the potential for the collection of even more actionable data. As the push for a sustainable future grows, industrial sectors that play large parts in polluting the environment should be among the first to adapt new technologies aimed at both improving their efficiency and productivity while also creating a sustainable future for continued development.


A Sustainable Future?

The International Energy Agency’s (IEA) data from 2012 suggests that Co2 emissions from road traffic alone makes up 72% of all emissions coming from the transportation sector. This statistic highlights the need for the widespread adoption of intelligent transport systems that are capable of promoting the adoption of sustainable operations and practices that will also improve efficiency and increase productivity. As with any business, the foundations you build upon will often determine how sturdy an organization you build. When it comes to the sustainable future of transport, systems designed to increase fuel efficiency, shorten journey times, optimize routes, maintain optimal performance from vehicles and collect performance data from any connected device are exactly what transport authorities need in order to best equip them for further growth later on. But environmental protection and performance optimization aren’t the only way to invest in a sustainable future, there’s also the economic factor.

As with any finite resource, the less fossil fuels there are, the more expensive they will be. From a transport operator’s point of view, this means that every drop of fuel purchased needs to be used as efficiently as possible, wasted fuel is wasted money. While electric cars have been introduced and are slowly becoming more widespread, fossil fuel-powered vehicles are the vast majority and transport agencies will need to be able to analyze and visualize their operational efficiency and work out where savings can be made as well as where more focus is needed. The ability to manage costs and performances of all connected vehicles could be used by operators to manage their outgoings while optimizing their performance, with the potential to use the money saved to invest in future upgrades when they’re needed.


Intelligent Transportation Systems

Intelligent transportation systems are software and hardware equipment purposely designed for different transit automation purposes. They are implemented in order to achieve set objects via the use of technology that improves, manages, monitors transport networks and promotes the “intelligent” use of them. There are several components of these systems that feedback data to their operators and managers in order to offer real time analysis, fleet management, monitoring, security, asset management, route optimization, data collection and operational efficiency. Let’s review some of the physical systems of an intelligent transportation system and their functionalities.


Sensors: Onboard sensors are used for feeding back data on driver behavior, vehicle condition, passenger counting, door control and temperature. Whereas wayside sensors are deployed to mine data on weather condition, vehicle classification and traffic flow to allow operator to take necessary actions such as to adjust traffic lights, inform passengers of predicted delays, diversions, weather hazards through remotely controlled dynamic road signage.

IP Cameras: Video Surveillance and Automatic License Plate Recognition cameras that perform their designated functions of capturing live video and images respectively for security and road enforcement purposes.

Embedded Computers: Embedded computers offer a centralized intelligent hardware platform to deploy sophisticated software for video surveillance, ALPR, digital signage, fleet management, fare collection and also offer integration with other onboard devices for vehicle counting, ticket printing, temperature monitoring and so on. Ruggedized Embedded computers are deployed on vehicle to deploy in-vehicle applications and also provide vehicle to infrastructure communication and real time visibility.

Signage Displays:  Remotely controlled Dynamic Roadside Signage systems are an important tool of Intelligent Transportation Systems as they are used to communicate with the commuters in real time about issues such as traffic congestion, diversions, weather hazards and delays due to road repair

Fare Collection Systems: Onboard and Station based fare collection systems offer various options for commuters to pay their fare. After boarding the bus/train, the information of the transaction is logged into the onboard fleet management system that is accessible to the transit operator to view in real time the revenue, number of passengers boarded and left the vehicle.


Future proofing the ITS Investment

In order to further promote a sustainable future for the transportation industry, operators and agencies will need to begin to plan out their future investments very intelligently to maximize their ROI.

Intelligent transportation systems look set to become more and more widely used with ever more applications becoming available. With deployment of any networked system, security is essentially a pre-requisite which ultimately becomes a top priority. Transportation networks are one of the key critical infrastructures that can become target of a cyber attack due to the sort of leverage they can provide to the adversary to achieve his objectives.

Another essential aspect of planning for a financially viable future of intelligent transport systems would be their upgrade paths. Like many other forms of technology, intelligent transportation systems will also require upgrade and capacity to integrate with new systems adopted by the transit authorities. In order to provide smooth integration pathways for future additions, intelligent transport systems will need to be built on open platforms designed to be further modified and built upon so as to reduce future outgoings to sustainable levels and provide easy upgrade paths.

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