Deployed on a large scale, the first objective of ITS is to improve and optimize the flow of traffic while seeking economic performance (reducing transportation times, providing services to travelers), ecological performance (reducing polluting emissions and noise pollution) and social performance (promoting access to mobility for everyone). This objective involves multiple issues, sites and projects.
The main ones are:
In a perfect ITS system, it is possible to inform each traveler at any time of options and alternatives for their journey and transfer from one mode of transportation to another in a smooth and simple way so they can take the quickest and most pleasant route, avoid traffic jams and accidents, etc. There are two major issues in this scenario: the ease of switching from one mode of transportation to another (from car to streetcar, from streetcar to bike, etc.) which implies an infrastructure design common to all operators (so that you can easily park your car next to a streetcar station, find a bike when getting off a bus, etc.) and a cross-cutting information system which delivers a clear and responsive vision of all the modes of transportation.
Example: In Singapore, the Land Transport Authority (LTA), which oversees all modes of transportation in the city, is developing an integrated information system (the Multi-modal Route Advisory System) which will deliver real-time travel assistance to users' smartphones and PCs to calculate the quickest or most direct route, incorporating all means of transportation (car, bus, subway, streetcar, boat, etc.) and all the latest information (slowing, roadworks, incident on a track, etc.).
In cities and regions with the most advanced ITS, transportation infrastructures are equipped with high-tech equipment (sensors, micro-processors, WiFi hotspots, etc.) which record and transmit real-time traffic information, enabling travelers to avoid congestion, thus optimizing traffic conditions.
Example: In Japan, over 30 million motorists are equipped with the Vehicle Information and Communication System (VICS) launched in 1990 by the Japanese government and gradually rolled out throughout the archipelago in collaboration with the authorities, major companies, universities and research institutes. A national VICS center gathers all the country's traffic information in real time and transmits it to the highway and main road network using beacons which emit radio waves or optical signals. The vehicles, equipped with the appropriate navigation system, transmit the message and the driver is informed of traffic conditions for the next 30 kilometers (on main roads) or 200 kilometers (on the highway).
Smart traffic lights
One rapidly developing area of ITS is adaptive traffic signal control, which determines waiting time at red lights, not in a mechanical and regular way but according to the actual level of traffic. The lights remain green for as long as possible during congestion or when there is a traffic jam risk on a road and the whole neighborhood or city is immediately synchronized.
According to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF), a system of this kind deployed throughout the USA would lead to significant savings: 40 % fewer stops, 25 % less traveling time, a 10 % reduction in fuel consumption and a 22 % reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Example: Sydney has a smart signaling system called SCATS (Sydney Coordinated Adaptive Traffic System). All the traffic lights in the city are equipped with sensors to calculate the number of pedestrians and vehicles in the area, while the central computer continuously integrates all the information about the traffic all over the city. Based on this information, the traffic light times are adjusted at each intersection and all the signals are continuously harmonized. According to an American study, SCATS reduces car journey times by 28 to 54 % - depending on the day of the week and time of day - compared with traditional signaling systems. The SCATS system is currently implemented in 263 cities and 27 countries, controlling nearly 36,000 intersections.
Electronic toll collection
In an Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system, motorists no longer have to stop to pay toll fees. The vehicle is equipped with an on-board unit which communicates with a terminal, an optical reader, when joining or leaving the highway or toll road so that billing and payment is carried out automatically (or using a prepayment system). The driver's smartphone could also be used to connect and make payments in the future. This saves time, reduces or eliminates lines at toll booths and saves fuel. According to a study by Texas A&M Transport Institute, the electronic toll system can handle 1,800 vehicles an hour as opposed to 350 for manual tolls. In addition, CO2 emissions are reduced by 40 to 63 %.
ETC was first applied to trucks and transport companies to increase competitiveness and has now expanded to private vehicles. It is already the norm in certain countries such as Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Portugal.
Example: The Japanese government has set up an electronic toll collection (ETC) infrastructure as an integral part of the intelligent transport system deployed throughout the country. Today, 43 million Japanese vehicles are equipped with an ETC unit and over 86 % of motorists use the system.
Intermodal ticketing systems, combine a card (or smartphone application) valid on several modes of transportation, a reader infrastructure (optical, magnetic, infrared, etc.) and a secure electronic payment system. Their aim is flexibility, ease of use for the traveler and increased productivity: eliminating or reducing waiting time at ticket desks, time spent buying a ticket, going through ticket barriers or validating tickets ultimately saves the transportation system thousands of hours.
Example: In South Korea, public transport in Seoul and numerous other cities, as well as the national rail network, can be accessed with one pass, the rechargeable T-money card, which the traveler does not even have to take out (it is scanned through clothing and wallets). Over 30 million contactless transactions are carried out every day with T-money.
Motorists having to drive around looking for a place to park significantly contributes to congestion and pollution. As a result, ITS are being developed to enable parking lots, ticket machines and cars to communicate with one another. Via the parking infrastructure, drivers are informed when a space becomes vacant or where they have the best chance of finding a space. In the longer term, vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication networks are expected to be set up in which drivers will automatically inform members of the same network or connected vehicles in the area when they leave a parking space. In France, for example, entrepreneurs have developed an iPhone app called Apila which puts Parisian drivers looking for and leaving spaces into contact with one another.
Example: Austin City Council, Texas, and start-up ParkMe have launched an intelligent parking system: ticket machines, garages and parking lots emit signals indicating the number of free spaces. Drivers can consult a street map and where it is easiest to park on their smartphones. They also have a tool which lists the cheapest parking spaces in the area.
The increase in sales of electric vehicles requires the implementation of effective ITS to tell drivers where the nearest charging stations are and also to connect the information systems of charging stations and the electricity grid. They also need to adjust the grid's capacity to meet vehicle-charging requirements. ITS are also starting to be deployed, usually using the cloud, connecting electric vehicle drivers, vehicle manufacturers, energy operators and distributors and charging station franchisees or owners.