ITSPAC Technology Strategy Subcommittee

Technology Strategy Subcommittee Charge

The Technology Strategy subcommittee will explore how the underlying technologies of sensors, computers, communications and systems management may accelerate the effectiveness of ITS and deliver national benefits in safety, mobility, energy and the environment.  The subcommittee’s recommendations may address the following issues:

  • A systems-based approach dealing with the complexity of a national multi-purpose future ITS infrastructure;
  • Ensuring an ITS framework that harnesses the creativity of a broad stakeholder community; and
  • Envisaging a robust ITS architecture that will lower the barriers to experimentation in multi-modal and multi-sectoral applications.

The subcommittee will give specific consideration to connected vehicle systems and applications to maximize the effectiveness of the V2V and V2I communications platform currently under development. The subcommittee may provide advice about technology considerations for future connected vehicle program research. These recommendations may touch on issues such as, but not limited to:

  • Engaging the auto industry, the developer community, and others to develop innovative applications based on the connected vehicle communications platform;
  • Adapting the technology for a variety of multi modal uses; and
  • Achieving adoption of the technology by vehicle manufacturers, state and local DOT’s, transit agencies, and other stakeholders.

Subcommittee Deliberations and Findings

The subcommittee’s discussions have focused on two areas: promoting a broad view of the intelligent transportation initiative, including communications technologies, and on a meaningful agenda for a possible White House summit to advance ITS.

ITS Initiative.  ITS should fundamentally be multi-modal in its application, and focus on where technology can produce measurable benefits to safety, mobility and the environment.  A broad view requires looking not only at communications technology, but also computing, storage, sensors, interfaces, function-specific applications, and software.

We had much discussion on concerns about whether or not the broad developer community will endorse and embrace the current connected vehicle platform being implemented by the Government, and whether that platform will facilitate a vibrant, thriving evolution of value-added services for the traveler, whether in a daily commute or occasional vacation, and whether traveling by personal automobile, public transportation or pedestrian.  Of equal importance is the benefit to commercial transportation operations.  The subcommittee viewed engagement by this developer community as crucial to success for ITS.

Key to such broad community engagement will be the architecture of the system.  An architecture is needed that is robust over a long period while the constituent technologies evolve at an ever increasing pace.  This requires appropriate standards and long lived application programming interfaces (API)s that can adapt to future physical systems while lowering the hurdle cost for experimentation by developers and entrepreneurs.

The subject of communications in the ITS infrastructure is controversial.  Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) was selected early-on as the technology of choice for V2V and V2I.  Recently the DOT has broadened its approach by retaining DSRC for critical low latency communications safety applications, such as V2V intersection collision avoidance, while welcoming alternative public communications networks for other ITS services within the umbrella of the overall ITS offering.  Going forward, there is some question whether the relatively short range and dedicated DSRC is the sole choice for critical functions, or whether the newly emerging Long Term Evolution (LTE) advanced architecture, so-called “3.9G” cellular, may provide the low latency communications required while also having much broader market adoption and additional, useful features.  Walt Fehr, in his presentation at our Ypsilanti meeting, probably best described this challenge when he stated that the Government’s system needs to become agnostic with respect to the physical communication system.

This leads to another key consideration for broad community adoption: the most effective role of the Federal Government in ITS.  Fehr’s discussion focused on unique transportation needs that might not be met by every public network, such as security and authentication, and resulting implications for a specific Federal Government role. 
If there are pressing needs such as protecting against cyber attacks of the vehicle or managing the creation of potentially driver-distracting applications, then the Government should provide this overlay.  In addition, standards and incentives are necessary to ensure a maximum size market that is blind to state boundaries and incentivizes deployment in less populated rural areas in addition to the normal market incentives in more populated areas.

Any ITS solution must include accommodation of non-automotive OEM features, such as aftermarket devices and smart phone applications that may attract high interest from developers and be strongly adopted by users.  These markets and developer communities can be further strengthened by provision of vehicle data to owners so that solutions and applications can be tailored to their vehicles and driving habits.  And driver distraction must be prevented for any in-vehicle solution.

The federal government’s safety-oriented relationship with the auto industry is therefore a key consideration in accelerating the effectiveness of ITS.  A wide array of new technologies is being introduced into motor vehicles: driver assistance, collision warning, and crash mitigation systems, smart phones, navigation systems, traffic information, eco-driving information, not to mention personal devices that are brought into vehicles by drivers (cell phones, texting, email and internet).   Emerging electrified vehicles are more likely to have advanced telematics,  more complex driver interfaces with regard to information on drivetrain status, energy use, and timely availability of electrical charging options, and potentially “smart grid” connections.

The technological path followed by automakers and their suppliers, and the behavior of automotive consumers, will greatly influence the direction and pace of deployment of the broader ITS system needed to meet national challenges. In the cockpit, distractions from the driving task – be they visual, physical or cognitive – are an important safety consideration.  The Federal Government has a critical role in ensuring that vehicle technology has a cumulative effect in eliminating crashes and reducing serious injuries.
The subcommittee noted that a major challenge is the divide between the Federal DOT research role, and the state and local implementation and deployment role.  That gap is wide, and it is not clear how to bridge that gap such that an accelerated deployment of ITS can happen.  It may come down to “business models”.  For the private sector, the goal is to enter a growing and profitable market sector with attractive scale.  For the Government, it may take Federal Government incentives and legislation to create action at the state levels.  And of course these “business models” intersect as we endeavor to have a motivated private sector investing in solutions that ultimately deliver safety, mobility and environmental benefits, all within some level of standards and protection on behalf of the consumer.

White House ITS CTO Summit – Aneesh Chopra.  The committee debated and drafted the White House Summit agenda, the current version of which follows.

“Accelerating ITS deployment in the US for near term advances in highway safety, mobility, energy and environmental performance.”

Meeting Goals

  • Evaluate and close the gap between government ITS research and the innovation efforts of private sector players (major industries and entrepreneurs);
  • Leverage the best communication and other technologies from within and outside the transportation sector; and
  • Accelerate the deployment of beneficial ITS by the transportation sector, public and private, across all modes.

Meeting Format

  • Convene key executives from the ITS, automotive, telecommunications and IT industries, transportation entrepreneurs and leaders from federal and state DOTs and MPOs;
  • Day-long meeting with invited keynote presentations,  in each area followed by discussion and goal-setting. 
  • Establishment of follow-up actions and owners. 
  • Size of meeting kept to workable number of attendees (~15 – 30).  Consider facilitator.

Participant Categories
State DOTs
Transit operators

Desired outcomes

  • White House and USDOT actions to accelerate ITS deployment;
  • Ensuring that government ITS initiatives in technology R&D will encourage and facilitate innovation and ITS deployment by private industry, and will encompass technology developed by aftermarket suppliers as well as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs); and
  • Identification of barriers to deployment and ways that legislators may act to accelerate ITS deployment for safety, mobility, energy and the environment.

Key issues to be discussed

  • Alignment and synergy between Government research and development and initiatives in the private automotive and telecommunications industries;
  • Bridging Federal Government research and development activities to adoption and deployment by State and local agencies;
  • Identifying barriers and potential solutions to accelerating deployment of ITS, V2X and other key technologies to achieve target results earlier;
  • Development of an open communication platform for vehicles (private, freight and transit) which will attract entrepreneurs and lead to innovation for safety, mobility, energy and the environment; and
  • The creation of a value chain for transportation data extending across modes and addressing data ownership, security and brokerage.


The wide-ranging discussion and deliberations above need to be further distilled into recommendations. Recalling the committee’s charge, to aid RITA in developing the underlying technologies and systems management  that can accelerate the effectiveness of ITS and deliver national benefits in safety, mobility, energy and the environment, we divide our recommendations into three parts.

To speed the engagement of the private sector and innovators to produce national benefits in mobility, energy, and the environment, the Federal Government should:

  • Promote, encourage, and use open systems that seek to maximize broad-based active developer communities;
  • Respond to the specific need for security, authentication, and API standards, which include data between vehicles and vehicle to infrastructure, as well as transit schedule-related data; and
  •  Seek a communications architecture that promotes flexibility and can be used across all sectors, not just within the transportation sector.

To speed adoption by states of technologies that meet safety goals, the Federal Government should:

  • Use leverage and incentives to maximize and strategically support a complex nationwide deployment an extended period of years.  While the auto industry is regulated for safety, fuel efficiency and emissions, potential actions affecting other sectors and industries (including the infrastructure sector) need to be considered;
  • Focus attention on accelerating ITS deployment by state and local jurisdictions, as well as in the commercial freight sector and the transit and public transportation agencies; and 
  • Ensure that sufficient data is obtained to support incentivization and the progressive promulgation of ITS benefits.

Between the Federal Government and the private sector, a major liability is the potential gap between the two, essentially a problem of “if we build it, will they come?”  The Government should focus on this gap and implement solutions to close it.  Such solutions should take into account:

  • Communications with vehicles and with individuals will require applications at the device level (including in-vehicle) and the services infrastructure to deliver the required services and applications.  Whatever part of that infrastructure is defined or implemented by the Government, it should be delivered to state and local governments to reduce their required investment.  This could be done via model deployments that are executed such that they can truly be replicated by other regions and organizations;
  • Deciding on where standards are required and ensure that they are put in place, so that system solutions work in all locations and the operation of vehicles and experience of individuals is the same wherever they travel;
  • Familiarity with private sector developments in vehicle communications and safety technology, to ensure that planned government systems will be compatible; and
  • Ensuring that the unique needs of electric and hybrid vehicles are included so that this rapidly emerging segment, with large investment in technology, is supported and incentivized by the government developments

Generally speaking, the systems benefits of ITS deployment need to be broadly promulgated by the Federal Government.  While we actively consider safety, mobility and environmental improvements, it is important to also consider national energy interests, especially in relation to electric vehicles.  A broader view is also needed, to capture new approaches to livability and urban form.  Above all, a fully inclusive approach to national, regional and local economic benefits of ITS is needed, one that encourages a new transportation service economy and promotes economic development at the local community level.