3 Steps for Transportation Agencies to Create an ITS Program
April 28, 2017

Jim Barbaresso

The following are 3 steps agencies are taking and can take now to plan for and understand the impact of ITS on the industry:

Step 1: Ready your technology

■ Ensure your communications systems are robust enough to accommodate the “fire hose” of data connected vehicles will generate, so the data can be leveraged from a performance measurement and management perspective.

- Identify and evaluate various approaches to effectively and efficiently manage the data generated by connected vehicles.

- Use accelerated processes for testing, certifying and approving new technologies.

■ Understand how current and upcoming projects can support long-term technology goals. If you are widening a corridor capitalize on the opportunity by also installing fiber optic cables. Ten years from now, when you need that infrastructure to accommodate connected vehicles, it will be in place and at a much lower cost than installing it under a separate project.

■ Target areas where communication devices would be located (e.g., high-crash locations and heavily congested corridors).

■ Build a bullpen of system integrators, network designers, network security specialists, data analysts and software/application experts.

■ Inventory your back office to determine if it is adequately equipped to collect, store, analyze and disseminate the data. Information from connected vehicles can improve performance only if it is managed and analyzed correctly.

■ Encourage staff to try popular smartphone apps and test-drive vehicles with the latest safety sensor technology to better understand how the driving experience is changing.

■ Find new ways to leverage departmental assets and resources. For example, if dynamic message signs are no longer needed, could the gantries be repurposed to house dedicated short-range communication transceivers as well as additional wireless transmitters, receivers and camera equipment?

■ Maintain and upgrade legacy assets, so ITS and autonomous vehicle/connected vehicle systems will work properly. This includes short-term strategies, such as improving lane lines, signs and signals, so smart cars can “read” them. Longer term, as smart and connected vehicles become more ubiquitous, consider adding lanes without additional right-of-way by reducing lane and shoulder widths. Because more cars will be able to travel more closely together at higher speeds, less space will be required to maintain safety.

Step 2: Gear up institutionally

■ Visualize a deployment business model, as well as how and when to roll it out.

■ Tie ITS to agency goals. If freight movement is an agency priority, look at heavily traveled freight corridors and identify corresponding ITS solutions.

■ Apply for federal grants.

■ Collect information about the benefits of ITS, emphasizing safety and costs needed to help justify investment decisions.

■ Consider policy. Legislation authorizing connected vehicles to travel on your state’s roadways has economic benefits. It invites businesses to test their equipment in your state.

■ Think about security and privacy issues associated with wireless communications and data networks, the potential for malicious activity, as well as insurance and liability issues.

■ Re-evaluate core competencies. While civil engineering and program management expertise remains essential, DOTs must begin to identify new skill sets that will be needed as technology evolves and is adopted. In some cases, this could mean outsourcing traditional in-house responsibilities, such as traffic management centers. In other cases, additional technical expertise will be required, particularly in the areas of mobile application development, cyber security, GPS technology, network management and data management.

Step 3: Educate internal and external stakeholders

■ Learn from others. Sign up for ITS webinars and attend workshops. Seek advice from industry associations and other DOTs.

■ Meet with stakeholders to understand their needs and perspectives on this topic.

■ List the resources your agency will need to execute an effective communication and public outreach program.

■ Help shape the next transportation reauthorization.

Jim Barbaresso is SVP and National Practice Leader, Intelligent Transportation Systems, HNTB Corporation.