Vision for Safety


The ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) is poised to make fundamental changes in its goal priorities, strategic alignment, organizational structure, research initiatives, management structures, and governance. Realizing the transition of the program to RITA, new management, new personnel, new and evolving technologies, and focus on utilizing innovative models to deploy ITS into the transportation infrastructure, offers a unique opportunity to dramatically restructure the future ITS program. In establishing the strategic direction of the program, the RITA Administrator has initiated a challenge goal to reduce the vehicle crash rate by 90% by 2030. Prioritizing safety as the ITS programmatic research goal enables the ITS JPO to systematically select, plan, execute, oversee, and align research projects and activities to achieve a focused and measurable safety outcome.

The establishment of a challenge goal to reduce vehicle crashes by 90% by 2030 provides a path to develop clear, measurable program and project metrics in terms of number of crashes, injuries, fatalities, and social and economic costs. Safety statistics paint a stark and compelling picture.

  • 6 million crashes/year
  • 42,000 fatalities/year
  • Direct economic costs of $230.6 billion per year (2000 dollars)

Over the years, much has been done to address safety, but the strategies have largely been executed within narrowly defined responsibility areas. While effective in reducing the fatality rate since the 1980s, in recent years the fatality rate has been flat. A different approach is needed to dramatically affect safety. Part of that approach is the aggressive application of advanced technology to create a more integrated environment among vehicles, roadways, drivers, pedestrians, transit operators, cyclists and others.

Additionally, vehicle crashes have a substantial impact on the performance of the surface transportation network. The Texas Transportation Institute estimates that the cost of congestion in the top 437 urban areas is about $78 billion per year. Traffic crashes account for 25% of all congestion or close to $20 billion per year in congestion-related costs.

Likewise, crash induced congestion impacts the environment through increased fuel consumption and carbon emissions as vehicles idle in traffic. Estimates indicate that 2.9 gallons per year of fuel are wasted due to traffic congestion. While little quantitative evaluation has been done specifically on global environmental impacts, specific evaluations of various ITS projects indicate that improving system performance could dramatically reduce fuel consumption and related carbon emissions.

Thus, a clear focus on improving vehicular safety will have ancillary mobility and environmental benefits (e.g. reduced hours of congestion, gallons of fuel wasted, and green house gas emissions). Centering the ITS research program and resources around safety will enable identifying a core set of activities and measurable outcomes. Structuring the remaining program resources to fill gaps not addressed by the safety goal enables a balanced, aligned, and efficient research program. This document lays out a path for achieving the safety goal by addressing the necessary programmatic elements.


The goals of the ITS program are to achieve dramatic improvements in safety. Technology evolution, along with changes in societal views offer new opportunities to transcend traditional approaches to safety and achieve radical breakthroughs. These advancements will be accomplished through:

  • Technology scanning and research to identify and study a wide range of potential technology solutions;
  • Research, development, demonstration, and evaluation of technology-enabled safety applications;
  • Establishment of testbeds to support operational tests and demonstrations for public and private sector use;
  • Development of architecture and standards to provide an open platform for wireless communications to and from the vehicle;
  • Study of non-technical issues such as privacy, liability and application of regulation; and
  • Research on ancillary benefits to mobility and the environment.

Program Structure:

To achieve this safety goal, the program will be structured into six investment areas each with near, medium and long term components. In general, near-term are activities within the next three years (what’s available today), medium-term is between three and ten years (what’s on the horizon), and long-term is greater than ten years from now (what’s over the horizon).

Technology Scanning and Research

The intent of this part of the research program is to ensure that a wide range of technologies are fully considered and put into use in support of safety applications. The work includes ongoing scanning of technology developments in the public, private and academic sectors both nationally and internationally. No stone will be left unturned in seeking innovative technology solutions from a multitude of sources.

    Near-term research: Identify existing technologies with the potential to facilitate safety applications on vehicles. Technologies are likely to include WiFi, WiMax and DSRC, among others. For each technology, research will be conducted to validate communication characteristics and potential applications that can be supported.
  • Medium-term research: Identify next generation technologies that are in early development stages such as nano technologies and 4G cellular. The technologies will be identified through scans and networking with university, private research institutions, and international communities. For promising technologies, research will be conducted to determine the potential safety applications that warrant further exploration.
  • Long-term research: Through ongoing scanning and development of relationships with long-term research institutions, identify and continually monitor developing technology for applications in safety critical environments. Engage in discussions with futurists and others who focus on long-term technology trends.

Safety Applications

Technologies identified through technology scans will be evaluated for their applicability to support safety applications. The applications will use technology to make vehicles discoverable to other vehicles, infrastructure and people and will provide situational awareness to the vehicle for 360 degree visibility into potentially hazardous situations. Sensor and wireless technology will be drawn from all sources and coupled with ever increasing processing power to deliver safety solutions.

The applications research, development, testing, and evaluation program is designed to:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness of safety applications for crash reduction;
  • Assess and evaluate human factors implications; and
  • Research and develop viable approaches to ensure security and scalability.

Based on candidate technologies, application development will be undertaken to test the combination of technologies and their use to achieve safety benefits. Research will include:

  • Near-term: Develop a concept of operations and requirements document for each combination of near-term technologies and applications. Based on the requirements, define technical testing parameters. Working with automotive manufacturers, tier 1 suppliers, and aftermarket vendors, execute application development, technical testing, and demonstration. All tests will be fully documented and made available to other researchers in public and private sectors. Testing, demonstration, and evaluation in the near-term is likely to include, but not be limited to,
    • Vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) applications using DSRC for safety critical, low latency purposes.
    • Other applications using WiFi, WiMax, cellular technologies for non-low latency applications;
    • Security, scalability and other network level tests as appropriate; and
    • Human factors testing to ensure effective warnings, appropriate driver response and minimization of false alerts.

Demonstrations of viable technology will be conducted to expedite public and commercial adoption. Testing will be conducted via test beds or through field tests. It is envisioned that field tests will play an increasing role in validating effectiveness of safety applications and generating data needed to support potential regulatory action.

  • Medium-term: Technology evolution will have occurred so that new technologies and combinations of technologies are available for safety application testing including early applications that exert control over the vehicle, such as automatic braking applications. Nano technology, RFID tags on infrastructure and in markings will have developed to the point where they are ready for testing, demonstration, and evaluation.
  • Long-term: Safety applications will move increasingly toward automated control. Application development, testing and evaluation will be needed as vehicles move into an automated environment. The technology and application issues are difficult to foresee in this time horizon making technology scanning an important function to position USDOT in anticipating future research needs.

Establish Test Bed(s)

In order to conduct the research necessary to develop and prove the capabilities of the technologies, it will be necessary to have the use of a well functioning research test bed or multiple test beds. In addition to the USDOT, companies will also need use of a test bed for their own research and testing of both non-proprietary and proprietary technologies and applications. Given the degree of potential public benefit, the establishment of an ITS test bed and leveraging private investment will expedite testing and adoption of new technologies and applications.

Working cooperatively with industry, USDOT will define the requirements for a test bed including the number of test beds needed and the standards and technologies to be supported. Options range from establishment of a single large test bed to multiple test beds. Existing test beds around the country will be evaluated to determine their capability to either meet requirements or be adapted to meet requirements. All options will be fully considered to find the best mix of test bed capability and geographic locations to provide a full range of capability to support testing in the near through long terms. In all cases, the test bed will provide an open architecture at the communications layer while accommodating closed system testing by private companies. The test bed(s) will be operated by a third party, or through a partnership between USDOT and a third party. Operation of the test bed(s) will be conducted in such as way as to provide testing opportunity for USDOT-sponsored tests as well as private sector or academic led testing. USDOT will seek optimal leverage with the private sector to minimize federal support particularly for ongoing operations.

  • Near-Term: Work with industry to develop test bed requirements through the use of an RFI, industry roundtables or other activities. Create the contractual framework and procurement approach to ensure accessibility for all parties and provision for ongoing operation. Establish the test bed(s) and initiate operations.
  • Mid-Term: Continue operation of the test bed(s). Promote its use and the applications being tested. Monitor use of the test bed(s) to assess continued federal role. As test bed use grows, the state of the applications will be monitored to determine if a certification process/authority is necessary for implementation. Further, the test bed(s) may serve as a seed(s) for early deployment(s).
  • Long-Term: Evaluate the success of the test bed(s) and determine if operations can be fully sustained without federal support.

Architecture and Standards

Standards and an open architecture are key elements in establishing a robust interoperable platform for operating a wide variety of safety, mobility and commercial applications and for ensuring expandability for future applications and evolving technologies. Private sector innovation and investment can be leveraged and accelerated through the provision of stable standards and an open architecture.

  • Near-Term: Three main areas of work are planned, including:
    • Reassessment and revision of the current VII architecture: The intent of the revision is to ensure the flexibility of the architecture to accommodate a wide variety of technologies and provide an interoperable platform for future development.
    • Review existing standards: The proliferation of wireless technologies has given rise to numerous standards that support this industry. Additionally, USDOT has invested in standards for wireless vehicle-based communications. In the near-term, work will be initiated to review all existing standards that may be useful to support safety applications. An assessment will be made to determine if the standards can be used as they currently exist or if modifications are necessary for the vehicular environment.
    • Revise existing standards or develop new standards: Based on the assessment, standards activity will be initiated to either revise existing standards or develop new standards in support of safety applications.
  • Mid-Term: The architecture will be monitored to assure that it meets the needs of the developing industry and supports robust technology applications. Revisions will be undertaken as needed. Likewise, standards work begun in the near-term will be completed and standard will be monitored for any needed revisions.
  • Long-Term: It is likely that a reassessment may be needed at this point as technology may have changed significantly. Further, architecture and standards will need to be assessed for support of automated control.

Non-Technical Issues Research

While much can be accomplished through technical research and applications testing, other issues have the potential to thwart implementation. This part of the program will conduct studies and research into implementation issues in order to reduce or eliminate their impact and, thus, accelerate deployment of safety applications.

  • Near-Term: Studies will be initiated to address the following issues:
    • Approaches to accelerate deployment: This will include studies with the auto industry and others to assess the viability of retrofit and aftermarket options to install safety technologies on existing vehicles. If the research reference d above points to the need for a physical infrastructure, deployment studies will be undertaken to ascertain how best to enable installation and operations with minimal federal government involvement.
    • Governance & certificate management for security and interoperability: While the final deployment solution is not known at this point, security of the wireless network for safety applications is a significant issue. Some type of governance approach may be necessary to manage certification across automotive (vehicle, bus, truck) platforms. This issue would require further study for resolution.
    • Liability: Because the applications envisioned are inherently safety related, a very high degree of reliability is needed. Additionally, some commercial applications require high reliability although not to the same level as safety. In all cases, liability is a concern that needs to be addressed to a level that creates a willingness to invest on the part of implementing companies and/or agencies.
    • Privacy: Privacy was addressed early and proactively within the VII program; however, as other technologies are incorporated and as implementation becomes imminent, privacy is likely to surface again in a more public way. Additional efforts will be needed to outreach to privacy advocacy groups and prepare cogent responses to relevant concerns.
    • Regulation: It is too early to determine if federal regulation through NHTSA is necessary; however, the program should be prepared to pursue that avenue. To that end, research needs to be structured to support rulemaking for either the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) or regulatory requirements on vehicle manufacturers (cars, trucks, buses). This will require coordination with NHTSA and stakeholder engagement activities throughout the research cycle. History shows that regulation may be avoidable or supported if industry is involved during the development cycle and they are able to position their businesses accordingly.
    • Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement: This program of work will be effective only if industry embraces the technologies and applies them to products and services. It is important to keep relevant stakeholders fully informed on program direction and provide them with easy access to research results. The outreach activities will maintain a vibrant web site, knowledge management and collaboration capability, and healthy stakeholder engagement with the intent of accelerating implementation.
  • Mid-Term: Other non-technical issues are likely to emerge or change. It is necessary for program management to be sensitive to evolving issues and modify the program to address them. Networking with stakeholders will enable nimbleness to adapt to non-technical needs as they surface. The issues to be addressed in the mid-term will derive from implementation status and emerging technology options.
  • Long-term: As automated control becomes more viable. Non-technical issues are likely to be substantial but are difficult to predict at this time.

Mobility and Environmental Benefits

As is evident from the foregoing program description, the focus is squarely on safety improvements. Resulting improvements in safety have ancillary benefits for mobility and the environment. When crashes are substantially reduced, non-recurring congestion and the associated fuel consumption and air quality impacts are lessened. Additionally, implementation of a wireless network regardless of technology type will provide data that has not been available to either the public or private sectors in this magnitude. The private sector is poised to take full advantage of the data and develop new mobility and convenience applications that will bring new services and travel choices to consumers. There is no anticipated federal role in their work other than encouraging and supporting developments of robust markets supported by open standards and architecture.

Due to the significant impact that is envisioned as a result of the large body of safety research described above, additional limited research is anticipated to take advantage of the ancillary mobility and safety benefits.

  • Near-term: Small scale studies will be undertaken in the following areas:
    • Environment: Intuitively, there is a link between crash reduction and environmental impact; however, little direct research has been done to quantify the potential. The first step is to assess existing research and data to determine what is currently known. This information will be used to determine what, if any, further work is needed to quantify the potential environmental benefits of dramatic safety improvements.
    • Mobility: Similarly, there is a general grasp of the connection between safety and mobility and their interdependencies. Other than assessing the amount of congestion that results from crashes, little has been done to fully understand the benefits of dramatic safety improvements on congestion. Modest studies are envisioned to assess the interdependencies. Additionally, public sector agencies have a collection of existing traffic management models and tools that are based on in-ground sensor data. The availability of robust and extensive data, regardless of technology source, has the potential to revolutionize their industry. However, research is needed to develop the core understanding of how to use new types of data sets and how existing models and tools can be modified or reinvented with new data. Initially, small scale studies are envisioned to assess the data types that will result from various technologies and how they may be used for transportation system management. Follow-on work may be appropriate to develop requirements that can be used by private companies to develop products and services to meet public agency needs.
  • Mid-term: The current state of technology implementation will be reviewed along with results from near-term activities to determine what, if any, additional research is warranted.
  • Long-term: As automated control advances, implications are likely for the public sector. Infrastructure design may need to be reassessed to bring a fresh look at geometric requirements such as lane width, curvature and interchange design. It is too early to frame these issues today, but they should be monitored as research progresses.


This research program will require significant financial investment and a strong organizational structure to ensure sound program management and oversight. To effectively manage the program, four levels of governance are envisioned.

  • RITA Leadership. RITA has the primary responsibility for the strategic oversight and direction of the ITS JPO, including but not limited to providing policy guidance for ITS programs and activities and coordinating ITS research within the Department. As such RITA leadership will provide high level program direction and set priorities for research based on input from internal and external stakeholders.
  • ITS JPO Leadership. The ITS JPO will provide leadership in implementing the program direction as set by RITA. This includes developing recommendations on strategic direction, executing the agreed upon program, overseeing financial expenditures, monitoring program and project performance, and networking with internal and external stakeholders. To handle these responsibilities, three elements of the organization will be engaged.
    • Program leadership: The JPO Director, Deputy and team leaders will exert thought leadership on the direction of the ITS program and in the definition and execution of the research program.
    • Staffing: ITS JPO staff will be the primary project managers for execution of research activities. They will coordinate with appropriate modal staff, but the responsibility and accountability will clearly reside with the JPO staff. JPO staff will develop expertise in program management, technology transfer, program evaluation, and outreach in order to successfully execute the major elements of the research program. This increased JPO role will require additional staff resources beyond the 17 FTE currently allocated. To fully manage the existing program, it is estimated that 35 FTE will be required. An alternative to adding staff is to initiate a formal integrated product team structure with details from modal staff supplementing permanent JPO staff.
    • Program Management Office (PMO): A key component of ensuring excellence in program management is the establishment of a PMO. The PMO will provide an organizational mechanism to collect, assemble, analyze and monitor performance across all contract vehicles used to implement the ITS program. Further, the PMO will house staff with expertise to advise JPO staff on optimal ways to structure contracts to ensure sound execution and oversight. The PMO will include on-site staff as well as supporting functions off-site.
  • USDOT Coordination. The research program described here provides for safety applications across vehicular platforms (cars, trucks, buses) and addresses pedestrian and bicyclists. The program is inherently multi-modal. Further, some tactics may require regulation that is managed by a modal administration. Thus, it is important to execute the research program with cooperation from modal administrations. Two forums are established with which to accomplish coordination.
    • ITS Management Council: The ITS Management Council is composed mainly of key modal administrators. The role of the Management Council is to ensure coordination across research activities so that research is complimentary and not duplicative. RITA maintains the role of providing strategic direction and will use the Management Council as a forum to receive comments and input on ITS program direction and execution.
    • ITS Strategic Planning Group (SPG): The ITS SPG is composed of modal administration executives at a peer level with the ITS JPO Director. The role of the SPG is to provide input on ITS programs and projects to ensure a coordinated research effort that is complimentary and not duplicative. The ITS JPO maintains its role in providing program direction and leading execution while soliciting input and comment from the SPG members to fully sync JPO research with other ongoing research programs.
  • External Stakeholder Input
    • ITS Advisory Committee: The ITS Advisory Committee was established through legislation. Their duties, as specified in the legislation, are to provide input on the strategic direction of the program and to review areas of current research being considered for funding by USDOT. The Advisory Committee, through their meetings and advice memoranda, will provide their thoughts for full consideration by RITA.
    • Safety Program Coordination Team: The use of technology to dramatically advance safety involves a wide range of stakeholders. The stakeholders are key players in ensuring implementation; therefore, it is advisable to enlist their involvement and input. A small group of association representatives will be established to provide informal comments to USDOT. The group will not give formal advice; rather the members will share their individual thoughts without consensus for consideration by USDOT. Members may include associations representing automotive manufacturers, travelers, safety advocates, bus and truck manufacturers, public agencies representing highway, transit, toll, and other interests, telecommunications industry, tier one automotive suppliers, and others as needed to fully support safety research activities.


In its role of setting strategic direction, RITA intends to implement a refocused ITS program centered clearly on achieving 90% reduction in fatalities by 2030 through the use of advanced technologies. The program will be accomplished through:

  • Technology scanning and research to identify and study a wide range of potential technologies
  • Research and development of technology-enabled safety applications
  • Establishment of testbeds to support operational tests and demonstrations for public and private sector use
  • Development of architecture and standards to provide an open platform at the communications layer
  • Study of non-technical issues such as privacy, liability and application of regulation
  • Research on ancillary benefits to mobility and the environment

The ITS program will align resources, research investment, demonstrations, standards, evaluation and all other program components to focus on safety as a top priority. Ancillary mobility and environmental research will be secondary priorities.

Supporting the program will be a tiered governance structure which clearly recognizes RITA’s role in strategic direction setting and program execution. The governance structure will include:

  • RITA Leadership for strategic direction
  • ITS JPO Leadership for direction, execution, and accountability through use of a PMO and additional staff resources
  • USDOT Coordination through the ITS Management Council and SPG for input
  • External Stakeholder Input through the ITS Advisory Committee and a newly formed coordination team, both of which will provide input to RITA.

With this aggressive program of work, USDOT will be on a path to achieve its ambitious safety goal and the astounding public good that will result.