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3 missed opportunities for intelligent transportation systems

By 2020, research firm SBD predicts that over 50% of new cars will be connected, so why aren’t intelligent transportation systems initiatives further along?

To start to answer this question, we have to better define ITS because, according to Andrew Hart, Director, SBD, and co-author of the whitepaper: “Collaborative ITS: Why collaboration has been so difficult, and why that could be about to change,” the term is an umbrella for range of different applications, services, initiatives and projects. It means different things to different people.

ITS losses

And like many big technology waves, ITS has suffered from a bit of hype — a perception that it’s the be all and end all, and will solve all our transportation problems. But it’s not and it can’t do so alone. It’s highly dependent on the success of relationships and the maturity of and integration with complementary technology.

Andrew explained in an interview, “ITS is all about whether there can be an efficient relationship between government and the private sector when it comes to the transportation.”

Think about transportation planning over 100s of years, he suggests, it’s been exclusively the domain of the government. And there have always been competing priorities: the private sector is focusing on profitability and the government is focusing on efficiency.

ITS forces a different kind of relationship and the government will need to leverage private sector information and capabilities. Conversely, IT and the private sector must rely on government to efficiently bring together best in breed for an optimal user experience.

ITS revolution?

The white paper opens by asking: “Will Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) provide a revolutionary or evolutionary change in the efficiency and safety of our road networks?”

The difference, Andrew says, is whether the change in relationship can happen quickly or not. What’s happening now is an evolution — an iterative approach as technology changes and matures; for example going from roadway sensors and disparate data to mobile sensors reporting data to a central repository.

For there to be a “revolution” all the pieces must come together — private sector solutions, government applications, end users and the relationships must be seamless. Plus, data has to be made available to everyone on an open platform.

A changing mindset among consumers is also key. Andrew says, “How do you ingrain in consumers’ minds that efficient transport benefits all of them? We need to create ITS initiatives that address individual needs as well as the greater good.”

Three big misses

“SBD estimates that in the last five years alone, failed, delayed and unrealized ITS initiatives have cost an incredible $89 Billion.” What are these missed opportunities? Andrew cites three things: life lost, time lost and money lost.

“Lives lost is usually equated with the promises made around ITS on how they can be saved if we implement a certain technology,” says Andrew. For example, in Europe all cars were to be equipped by 2011 with an emergency signal box in case of a crash. The initiative has been delayed until at least 2017.

Electronic toll collection saves time. If you remove the tollgates and fit vehicles with RFID tags you can get freer flowing traffic, yet many of these have suffered from poor implementations or delays.


Money lost can be linked to unrealized revenue, Andrew says, like when an ITS project is abandoned by the government and it has to pay the private sector provider involved just to cover expenses for what was already laid out. Plus, the provider loses the remainder of the revenue that was expected if the project went to completion.

So what will it take to move forward successfully? “It depends on how well the ITS community can ride the wave of current technological breakthroughs in big data, sensor analytics and IoT growth,” according to Andrew.

The paper suggests, “A successful new collaboration model is not guaranteed – it will require major changes in cultures and strategies within the public and automotive sectors.”

Read the white paper to dig deeper into the state and future of ITS.

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