Intelligent transportation systems

Automation & RoboticsIndustrySouth-East European INDUSTRIAL Мarket - issue 1/2014

Modern cities face different challenges that affect their current transport situation. These include the significant increase in car ownership, the serious difficulties in providing parking space in the busiest city areas, the prolongation of the travel time in cities when using both private cars and public transportation, and the growing concern for public safety caused by the poor standard of driving behavior.

By implementing intelligent transport systems (ITS) city municipalities can easily manage traffic, urban transport, parking, prevent accidents and emergency situations, provide automated control of vehicles, inform users of transport services, control traffic and users of public services through video cameras, monitor the environmental impacts, etc. The intelligent transportation systems are a single solution to the many problems associated with traffic and transport in the hectic modern cities.

Key transport challenges in modern cities
Megacities today are like constantly expanding universes. The urban population keeps growing and the number of owned cars is increasing in a positive correlation, as well as their use as an alternative of public transportation. Traffic and parking congestion are becoming more and more serious, significantly exceeding available capacity both in residential areas and city centres.

The travel from one place in the city to another, both by car and by urban transport, is getting ever longer in duration, which often costs the passengers and drivers many nerves and lost profits. Most of the primary street networks are running with workloads exceeding their capacity at peak hours, resulting in traffic jams, which have become a daily occurrence.

One of the major issues related to transport is the alarmingly low level of road safety in cities. There are a high number of traffic accidents, in many cases caused by the poor condition of the road infrastructure and the lack of good technical equipment in the street environment (lighting, signalization, marking, etc.), physical measures for speed reduction or technical means for traffic control.

Other significant problem in modern cities is the mix of old and new technologies and different operational practices for traffic management and control, which cannot communicate with each other. In order to overcome those challenges, more and more city municipalities are resorting to the deployment of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS).

What is an Intelligent Transportation System?
Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are advanced applications which aim to provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management and enable various users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated, and "smarter" decisions using transport networks. Integrated information systems are key components of the Smart City concept. By ITS deployment optimum management of the road network and integrated services are achieved.

Although ITS may refer to all modes of transport, EU Directive 2010/40/ on the framework for the deployment of intelligent transport systems in the field of road transport and for interfaces with other modes of transport defines ITS as "systems in which information and communication technologies are applied in the field of road transport, including infrastructure, vehicles and users, and in traffic management and mobility management, as well as for interfaces with other modes of transport."

Benefits from ITS
There are six main purposes the deployment of intelligent transportation systems serves, namely: congestion reduction, increased use of public transport, improving network management, pollution reduction, ensuring reliable travel time, improving road safety. Each of these objectives can be linked to specific and measurable benefits. A key aspect of an effective ITS deployment strategy is the possibility to monitor and report the benefits.

The use of intelligent transport systems for operation and management of city networks has already been established in modern cities and is now in its maturity. As a result, the advantages of ITS can be well documented and understood.

ITS can make the city trips much more effective (safer, cleaner, cheaper, the travellers - better informed). These systems also help with the achievement of best efficiency when travelling in city conditions, gathering all the information needed and improving decision-making. Intelligent systems significantly facilitate the use of public transport by providing accurate data and information on services in real time.

They can also reduce the effects of car pollution through better management of the traffic organization. The deployment of ITS can considerably reduce the number of traffic accidents by providing drivers information on traffic conditions in real time. It can also help them find the best route to their destination and change it immediately if an incident has taken place somewhere on that route or the traffic has been redirected.

ITS also help improving the safety of passengers and staff in public transport by providing additional communications, video monitoring and better information. A specific strategy is necessary for the seamless deployment and efficient operation of intelligent transportation systems in modern cities.

ITS deployment strategy
The strategy for ITS deployment needed to realise the ITS vision in contemporary cities includes the following elements: main objectives of ITS - problems related to traffic and transport, leading to a need for change; ITS Architecture - a coherent framework for the design, development, procurement and deployment of integrated ITS network; ITS basic tools for implementation - key features of traffic and transport, which must be maintained; ITS projects and measures: individual ITS projects aimed at organization of traffic and transport; ITS implementation plan - clearly defined set of prioritized projects through which the ITS vision is achieved. An efective deployment strategy is realised through the implementation of different types of intelligent transport sollutions into a common network.

Main types of ITS by functions
The intelligent transportations systems being deployed in big cities these days are divided by their functions or the purpose they serve; by the technology used and whether they are part of the infrastructure or the vehicles. In terms of functions we can classify ITS as:

Traffic management systems
Those solutions are used for billing (toll); access control; research, modeling, simulation and analysis of traffic (including both drivers and pedestrians); traffic organization; light adaptive adjustment. They may also include electronic road signs or message boards with changing content.
Public transportation management systems

They are used for general management of rolling stock; giving priority to public transport in intersections with light regulation; informing users of public transport vehicles and their schedule; electronic billing - specialized devices, mobile phones - SMS; analysis of the consumption of services - registration of passengers, etc.

Parking management systems
Those systems inform drivers about parking lots and vacancies by means of changing messages on electronic road signs, internet and mobile applications (Android for example) and can also charge for parking by SMS.

Systems, informing users of transport services
They are mainly virtual and include changing message signs/electronic schedule boards, Internet portals, applications for mobile phones and tablets, etc.

Accidents and emergencies management systems
Intelligent emergency management systems are used for giving priority to special purpose vehicles (police, fire, ambulance, etc.), providing connection with the European Emergency Number 112, and raising and managing road safety in general.

Videocameras, controlling traffic and users of public services
Videocameras are mounted on the streets and intersections, on the bus stops and subway stations, as well as inside the vehicles. Video systems can guarantee the drivers comply with speed limits by integrated options for detecting violators. State-of-the-art technologies can absolutely accurately capture the violator, his face, license plate and other data necessary for authentication.

Other intteligent transportation systems include: automation solutions for motor vehicles (drive assist systems, GPS-systems, etc.), environmental impacts monitoring solutions (monitoring the atmosphere, noise levels, etc.) and many other systems, comprising smart technologies, which facilitate transportation, travelling and provision of safety for drivers, passengers, environment, vehicles and infrastructure.

ITS architecture
The complex architecture of an inteligent transport network usually consists of several key components. Among those are: Urban Traffic Control systems (UTC), Road Traffic Organisation centres, information systems (ATIS, Advanced Traveller Information System), Closed-Circuit Television systems (CCTV), Data Transmitting Networks, etc. It is recommended the hardware and software platforms for these systems to be based on a protocol for communication between open systems.

Main types of ITS by technology
Intelligent transport systems vary in technologies applied: basic management systems such as car navigation; traffic signal control systems; container management systems; variable message signs; automatic number plate recognition or speed cameras to monitor applications, such as security CCTV systems. They may also include more advanced applications that integrate live data and feedback from a number of other sources, such as parking guidance and information systems; weather information; bridge de-icing systems; etc.

Wireless communications
Radio modem communication on UHF and VHF frequencies are commonly used for short and long range communication within ITS. Short-range communications (up to 350 m) can be accomplished by the use of IEEE 802.11 protocols or other related standards. In theory, the range of these protocols can be extended using Mobile ad hoc networks or Mesh networking.

Longer-range communications use infrastructure networks such as WiMAX (IEEE 802.16), Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), or 3G. These communications are well established, but require extensive and very expensive infrastructure deployment.

Computational technologies
Recent advances in vehicle electronics have led to a move towards fewer, more capable computer processors on a vehicle. The current trend is toward using a small number more costly microprocessor modules with hardware memory management and Real-Time Operating Systems.

The new embedded system platforms allow for more advanced software applications to be implemented, including model-based process control, artificial intelligence, and overall computing. Perhaps of greater importance for Intelligent Transportation Systems is artificial intelligence. Floating data collection is one of the computation techniques, commonly used in ITS.

"Floating car" or "probe" data collection is a set of relatively low-cost methods for obtaining travel time and speed data for vehicles travelling along streets, highways, motorways (freeways), and other transport routes. Three methods are mainly implied for achieving this goal: Triangulation Method, using vehicle integrated mobile phones as anonymous traffic probes; Vehicle Re-Identification, achieved through sets of detectors mounted along the road, identifying and re-identifying the unique vehicle ID number (VIN); GPS Based Methods, using satellite navigation systems that have two-way communication with a traffic data provider and allow positioning vehicles and computing vehicle speeds.

Sensing technologies
Sensing systems for ITS are vehicle- and infrastructure-based networked systems. Infrastructure sensors are indestructible (such as in-road reflectors) devices that are installed or embedded in the road or surrounding the road (on buildings, posts, signs, etc.), as required, and may be manually placed during preventive road construction maintenance or by sensor injection machinery for rapid deployment.

Vehicle-sensing systems include deployment of infrastructure-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure electronic beacons for identification communications and may also employ video automatic number plate recognition or vehicle magnetic signature detection technologies at desired intervals to increase sustained monitoring of vehicles operating in critical zones.

Inductive loop detection
Inductive loops can be placed in a roadbed to detect vehicles as they pass through the loops magnetic field. The simplest detectors simply count the number of vehicles during a unit of time (typically 60 seconds) that pass over the loop, while more advanced sensors can estimate the speed, length, and weight of vehicles and the distance between them.

Video vehicle detection
Since video detection systems (like those used in automatic numberplate recognition) do not involve installing any components directly into the road surface or roadbed, they are commonly known as "non-intrusive" methods of traffic detection. Video footage from black-and-white or color cameras is sent to processors that analyse the changing characteristics of the video image as vehicles pass.

The cameras are typically mounted on poles or structures above or adjacent to the roadway. A single video detection processor can detect traffic simultaneously from one to multiple cameras, depending on the brand and model. The typical output from a video detection system is lane-by-lane vehicle speeds, counts, and lane occupancy readings. Advanced systems provide additional outputs including gap, headway, stopped-vehicle detection, and wrong-way vehicle alarms.

Bluetooth detection
Bluetooth is an accurate and inexpensive way to measure travel time and make origin/destination analysis. Bluetooth is a wireless standard used for establishing communication between electronic devices like mobile/smart phones, headsets, navigation systems, computers etc.

Bluetooth road sensors are able to detect Bluetooth MAC addresses from Bluetooth devices in passing vehicles. If these sensors are interconnected they are able to calculate travel time and provide data for origin/destination matrices.

Compared to other traffic measurement technologies, bluetooth measurement has some significant advantages: low cost per measurement point, low costs for physical installation compared to other technologies, no roadside maintenance needed, quick and easy configuration and calibration of the complete solution, etc.

Intelligent infrastructure and intelligent vehicles
Intelligent sollutions integrated in city infrastructure are various and multifunctional. They can be used for аrterial-, freeway-, transit-, incident-, and emergency management, electronic payment and pricing, traveler information, information management, crash prevention and safety, roadway operations and maintenance, road weather management, commercial vehicle operations, intermodal freight, etc.

Usually those systems are modern technologies that require serious investment but also offer quick returns and provide multiple benefits including the reduction of road accidents. They may be supplemented with other technological means, used in intelligent vehicles. Those include collision avoidance systems, driver assistance systems, collision notification systems, parktronic systems, etc.

Major areas of application
Building completely new city infrastructure takes a lot of time and money, so the fastest and most effective way of reducing the harmful results of the increased traffic and owned cars is to create a modern organization of traffic and use of intelligent transport systems.

ITS apply information and communication technologies in transport infrastructure. Intelligent transport systems are widely used in all areas of transport: bus transport networks, control and registration of traffic monitoring systems, information systems and safety on motorways, tunnels and bridges, electronic payment systems, payment of tolls, payment when entering downtown and others.

Investment in ITS should be regarded as an essential strategic element in all new projects relating to Тrans-European transport networks, as well as projects to modernize existing networks and connections. EC recommends investments in ITS applications, which are typically only a small percent of the infrastructure cost, to be included from the beginning in the planning for the new projects and to be considered an essential condition for improving infrastructure. Many technology companies in Bulgaria and Europe as a whole are gradually turning their sights on ITS.

Deployment of ITS in Europe
More and more countries in Europe every year spend large amounts for transport financing and deployment of ITS technologies in particular. Intelligent Transportation Systems help to support efficiency in the use of existing infrastructure and contribute toward reducing environmental pollution by controlling traffic flows and managing traffic volume. The development of a modern city transport network is essential to helping it meet its efficiency, optimization, competitiveness and economic potential.

One of the good practices in urban fields of implementation for ITS applications is using urban schemes for access control. Despite growing problems with urban congestion and urban air quality such smart ITS solutions improve both quality of life and economy by a user-oriented, safe and environmentally friendly way in modern city centers.

Limited Traffic Zone in action
28% of Italian cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants are equipped with urban access system (46% of all Italians who live in cities with more than 100.000 inhabitants have the possibility of using the system on a daily basis). Italy was among the first countries worldwide to accomplish electronic enforcement of Limited Access Zones.

This system is designed for the automatic control of vehicles entering an area classified by the Public Administration as "limited traffic zone". The system checks the authorisation of the vehicle based on its licence plate though the use of Automatic Number Plates Recognition (ANPR) cameras and prepares the respective documentation to issue a fine if the vehicle was not authorised to enter.

How does it work?
There are no obstacles or any other barriers when driving into the zone, however access is granted to holders of an access authorization only. An access permit can be granted very restrictively or more widely, according to the local transport policy. The access permit is linked to the vehicles license plate number, so drivers have to apply for a permit and register their car. The access limitation can be valid only during certain hours of the day, one day, a couple of days, for longer usage (weeks or months), or for permanent usage.

Soon cities began to grant authorizations according to environmental concerns, so the access criterion was the vehicles emission class. Now, roughly a quarter of all electronically enforced zones are Low Emission Zones, achieving partly considerable pollution reductions, such as the zone of Bologna, in which not only the absolute traffic number was reduced by -23%...-31% (depending on the time of the day), but also PM10 emissions (particulate matter (PM) is the term for solid or liquid particles found in the air) were reduced by -47% (Bologna was recognized by the European Commissions Directorate General for Mobility and Transport to become a European best practice in 2012).

Consequently, respective city authorities - by providing traffic management solutions like urban schemes for access control - can think of traffic as an opportunity and tool for improvement quality of life in city and suburban areas, safeguard the environment and encouragement sustainable growth.

Future of ITS
In recent years, ITS has an increasingly important role in the efficient provision of services. With increasing level of maturity, ITS are approaching the next stage of their development, which will be influenced by: greater integration between systems and modes; open and common standards and shared framework; service-oriented architecture (Service orientated architecture, SOA); increased consumer services; sharing of information in real time and speed of reaction and obviously a good balance between price and quality.

The future of intelligent transport will develop together wilth smart cities and intelligent infrastructure growing into one common megafunctional and megaconnected superintelligent network. Super-intelligence implies that the intelligence of the system as a whole will reach much higher levels, because of the integration of intelligence in all the components.

Source:,,, Kapsch