Thousands descend on Orlando, Fla., to talk transportation technology
Experts focus on technology’s role in moving people and goods quicker, safer, cleaner
By Larry Ehl
When you travel today — whether by car, bus, rail, plane or bike — technology made your trip safer, faster and cleaner than in the past. That technology may have been obvious to you (hybrid vehicles, GPS) or not (traffic light synchronization, interstate weigh-in-motion for trucks).
Yet our transportation network can be much, much safer, efficient and cleaner. Every year nearly 40,000 people are killed on our highways. Congestion cost about $101 billion and 4.8 billion wasted hours in 2010. Transportation accounts for nearly 30% of our greenhouse gases.
Making transportation safer, more efficient and cleaner was the focus of a recent conference — the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress, held Oct. 16-20, in Orlando, Fla. — attended by about 8,000 public- and private-sector transportation specialists from more than 65 countries.
The conference consisted of more than 300 sessions and hundreds of exhibits — many
on cutting?edge transportation solutions for traffic congestion and management,
highway and vehicle safety, next-generation traveler information, and mobility
Reflecting the public’s (and the public sector’s) desire for accountability and
efficiency, over 50 sessions focused on performance measures and standards.
Brian Mistele, CEO of Inrix, has said, “Our efforts with transportation agencies
worldwide are driving better intelligence from the vast data stores in ways
that help them plan, build, manage and measure the performance of our road
networks for a fraction of the cost.”
The ITS World Congress also featured a number of sustainability sessions detailing
the potential for improving air and water quality through current and possible
future technologies, particularly in freight transportation.
Some of the conference sessions were very practical. Traffic signal synchronization,
for example, not only helps people travel more quickly, it can reduce emissions
by reducing vehicle starts/stops — a significant cause of emissions
particularly for trucks.
Another practical focus was “smart parking.” An example is Streetline, which
offers a smartphone/tablet application that helps drivers easily find and pay
for available parking and access information such as parking space time limits,
pricing, whether meters take credit cards or coins, in cities across the
country. I tested the application and it was pretty amazing. Streetline recently won The Wall Street Journal 2011 Technology Innovation Award.
Another vendor, ParkingCarma, is working on smart parking applications for the freight
trucking industry, especially in California.
“Eye-popping” is the only way to describe sessions and demonstrations of connected vehicle
technology. Using GPS, Wi?Fi sensors and a special short?range radio frequency,
vehicles can relay information to each other about hazardous road conditions or
a looming risk of a crash. Drivers receive real-time safety warnings and information. According to U.S. Department of Transportation estimates, connected vehicle technology has the potential to address 81% of all unimpaired driver?related crash scenarios. Many of the
fender-benders caused by inattentive drivers in stop-and-go traffic — which
quickly backs up traffic — could be eliminated.
Baoules, part of General Motors’ Global Research and Development division says,
“Intelligent vehicle technologies will ultimately enable autonomous
driving and cars that don’t crash. Not only will these vehicles revolutionize
personal mobility, they also promise to dramatically decrease fuel consumption
an emissions, greatly enhance traffic safety and provide significantly more
value for consumers.”
more at the Connected Vehicle Research Web page of USDOT’s Research and
Innovative Technology Administration. Wired Magazine has a collection of
articles about “autonomous vehicles,” including one about a
“self-steering robotic tractor using GPS and a raft of smart sensors to
drive over farmland, till the fields and orientate itself to different terrain
following a pre-programmed route with no one at the wheel.”
my home base region of the Pacific Northwest, the Cascadia Center for Regional
Development (Cascadia Center) of Discovery Institute, West Coast Corridor
Coalition (WCCC) and the International Mobility and Trade Corridor Project
(IMTC) are just three of the many organizations working on intelligent
transportation projects and solutions to enable people and goods to move
quicker, safer and cleaner. (Cascadia Center and the WCCC helped sponsor my
attendance at the ITS World Conference.)
Center, WCCC and IMTC — working toward solutions
1993, the Cascadia Center has convened public- and private-sector interests in
order to learn about and develop “Clean, Green and Smart”
transportation, particularly in key high traffic corridors like West Coast
interstates. The Seattle-based transportation policy center has partnered with
Microsoft Corp. to offer “Beyond Oil” conferences, which have focused
on a range of issues, such integrating ITS in West Coast states and traffic
light synchronization. Presentations
from the last major “Beyond Oil” conference, held in 2009, are found
WCCC “advocates collaborative solutions to transportation system
challenges on the West Coast Corridor” and includes representatives from
Washington, Oregon, California and Alaska. The WCCC’s ITS and Environment
Committee is pretty self-explanatory. Its purpose is to regularly convene
public- and private-sector interests in part to learn about how ITS can improve
operations and security in ways that also improve the environment and travel
time. In April 2009, with the assistance of the Cascadia Center, the committee developed the Clean, Green, and Smart Best
IMTC is a U.S.-Canada coalition of business and government entities that
“identifies and promotes improvements to mobility and security” for
four U.S.-British Columbia border crossings which have a combined heavy public
and commercial traffic volume. One of their projects focused on expanding the
Advanced Traveler Information Systems to provide travelers with better
border-crossing traffic conditions. This enables public and commercial
travelers to make more informed travel choices, saving time and money.
not to be forgotten are the transportation departments of West Coast states and
regional organizations like SANDAG, which are among the nation’s leaders in
developing and applying ITS to move people and goods quicker, safer and
cleaner. Also important are advocacy organizations like Mobility 21, which help
build support for ITS and other approaches to improving the transportation
Quotations and data gathered from ITS World Conference news releases, personal
notes from sessions, and “Transportation and economic development,”
IBM Institute for Business Value.
This guest post was reported and written by Larry Ehl, publisher of the e-newsletter/blog, Transportation Issues Daily, read by people in 43 states. Mr. Ehl recently attended the ITS World Conference on behalf of the
Cascadia Center. In this post, and in several forthcoming, he shares his thoughts about how technology is impacting transportation and touches on Cascadia’s efforts in this arena. The content of this post does not necessarily represent the view of Cascadia Center of Discovery Institute.