Will Intelligent Transportation
Systems, or ITS. provide a
revolutionary or evolutionary
change in the efficiency and safety
of our road networks?
Optimists believe that ITS technologies and applications will deliver a radical step change in how we move people and goods — and that we are at the cusp of that revolution. Others take a more conservative view, foreseeing instead a gradual deployment of new technologies that incrementally improve our lives. The one area of agreement among these two groups is that ITS collaboration so far has been much harder than anticipated and possibly harder than necessary.
Many of the most promising ITS applications have failed to make it beyond trial phases, as governments and the private sector have struggled to find the right formula for success. In the white paper ‘Collaborative ITS: Why Collaboration has been So Difficult, and Why that could be About to Change’, HERE and SBD demonstrate how ITS collaborations are changing.
Why has ITS collaboration been so difficult to get right?
• The Square Wheel: A common cause of failure for ITS initiatives is the deployment of services that simply do not resonate with the needs of consumers. Sometimes these initiatives will prove hard to register for or use, and often this lack of intuitiveness will lead to low uptake and usage rates. Much of this disconnect is driven by how ITS initiatives start — a disproportionate emphasis is placed on disparate academic studies and engineering-focused pilots, and insufficient time is spent on the last-mile effort to develop clear business and deployment models.
The consumer disconnect is the most concerning of the ITS challenges, as it often reflects a lack of longer-term vision and an inability within our sector to clearly verbalize a value of ITS that extends beyond a single application.
• The Redundant Wheel: Other ITS projects have been launched without a full evaluation of existing solutions that could either partially or fully fulfil the needs of consumers and the public sector. A good example of this is traffic information, where governments have continued to invest in expensive roadside equipment to measure traffic despite the widespread availability of high-quality alternatives from players like HERE, Google, TomTom or INRIX.
The local and national public sector now has a greater awareness of the value of re-focusing their resources and expertise towards leveraging (rather than duplicating) ITS initiatives from the private sector.
• The Missing Wheel: In other circumstances, ITS initiatives often fail to ever move beyond the research stage despite a clear and urgent need, due primarily to a lack of political will. A good example of this has been the slow deployment of dynamic parking support services that can help minimize urban congestion by directing drivers to available spots. Although a limited number of privately funded schemes are in operation in certain large cities, a significant proportion of parking spaces continue to be managed by local governments that are outside of these schemes.
• The Politicized Wheel: As ITS sits at the intersection of public and private transportation interests, it is inevitable that political frictions will emerge. However, these frictions have been a major cause of delays and cancellations of ITS initiatives. The most prominent of these has been ERA GLONASS (Accident Emergency Response System) in Russia, which has been used as a political football among different groups. Similar ITS initiatives in France and Germany have also suffered the same fate.
• The Re-invented Wheel: One of the key barriers has been the development of multiple and often competing technologies for the integration and dissemination of ITS applications, making it harder to achieve economies of scale. ITS applications such as Electronic Toll Collection or V2X communications were designed from the beginning to be tightly coupled to specific technologies such as DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications). The challenge, however, is that the long time-cycle required to agree on standards has enabled new and potentially competing technologies to emerge from the consumer electronics , telecoms and automotive worlds. This leaves the ITS sector in a difficult position — make a major U-turn by piggy backing ITS onto new technologies such as LTE, or stick with ITS-specific standards and risk creating expensive ‘Technology Siloes’ that reinvent the wheel.
What is the cost of not getting ITS right?
The benefits of ITS are regularly touted within research papers and by ITS associations that are keen for governments to adopt more aggressive transportation policies. Benefits can relate to lives saved, time saved or cash saved. But what happens when initiatives fail to deliver or are severely delayed?
• Missed opportunities: Although tempting to only focus on initiatives that have failed to fully deliver on their potential, there are a number of notable successes that are worth highlighting. In Singapore, the first generation of Electronic Road Pricing (ERP) demonstrated how careful planning can lead to a highly profitable and socially beneficial output, and as the plans for ERP 2.0 proceed it is clear that the government is strongly promoting value-added services as a way to make toll collection more palatable to the public.
Other South East Asian markets like Malaysia and Indonesia are looking to emulate their successful collaborative model as they expand their own road toll networks. In Hungary, the government opted against forcing specific hardware solutions for fleet tolling (as markets like Germany, Austria and Switzerland have done), and instead developed an API that allows third party fleet operators to share mileage and tolling data to a central platform using their own approved hardware. In the USA, a growing number of states have successfully reduced their reliance on expensive and unreliable fixed sensor networks for ITS applications such as traffic monitoring, and are instead turning to the private sector to leverage their existing assets.
• Failed ITS initiatives: These initiatives are defined as either suffering from systematic issues following commercial deployment, or alternatively being abruptly cancelled before deployment due to technical, political or social issues. Either way the initially targeted benefits of the ITS initiative are never fully realized. Examples of failed initiatives are most prominent in the field of Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), where governments around the world have attempted to deploy usage-based road taxes in order to manage capacity and raise revenues.
In the USA, for example, the Illinois Tollway announced in 2012 that due to poor enforcement and insufficient legal recourse, it was owed $300 million in unpaid tolls and penalties, amounting to almost 50% of its annual revenues.
In France, the government was forced to cancel the ecotaxe initiative altogether, paying the chosen supplier (Ecomouv) €800 million to compensate them for the termination of the contract. The cancellation came amid a strong consumer and legal backlash against the government, and despite efforts to scale the initiative back to only focus on trucks.
Beyond these two high-profile examples, SBD has identified nine other failed ITS initiatives over the last five years that have led to governments and the private sector wasting $14.75 billion in sunk costs and unrealized revenue potential.
• Delayed ITS initiatives: It is common for any large-scale project to suffer from delays. However, the complexity of ITS initiatives and collaborations makes it even harder to deliver the planned value on time. No ITS delay has been more prominent than public eCall in Europe, which the European Commission began investigating in the early 2000s and initially targeted a deployment for by 2010. Having recently passed legislation, the Commission now expects eCall to be mandated on all new type-approved vehicles from 2018.
The delay has already led to 12,500 preventable road deaths over the last five years, along with €800 billion in costs. In the USA, NHTSA’s aim of introducing a mandate for collaborative V2X communication between cars has also suffered delays, and is expected to be delayed even further.
SBD estimates that in the last five years alone, failed, delayed and unrealized ITS initiatives have cost an incredible $89 billion. The missed opportunities to reduce the societal burdens of increased congestion and accidents account for the majority of this cost, although the commercial sector is also hit by missed revenue opportunities too.
• Unrealized ITS initiatives: Although impossible to quantify, there is also a third group — ITS applications that are technically feasible and have a proven value — but have not yet been progressed beyond the early research and piloting stages due to a lack of political push or an inability to develop the right collaboration model.
This cost is much harder to estimate, as it is based on a series of ‘what ifs’. Considering the time spent by drivers in finding a vacant parking space, one needs only to imagine the traffic, social and environmental impact were even only a few of Europe’s most congested cities to deploy urban parking management solutions that have been shown to be technically feasible.
Why ITS collaboration is about to get better?
ITS came ahead of its time. The ambitious vision for a connected network of transportation and infrastructure that enabled safer and more efficient mobility required the development of advanced technologies and collaborative frameworks. However, these building blocks have proven too complex and expensive to develop purely for the support of ITS applications.
There has also been one additional hurdle that has held back ITS initiatives — data. This may be about to change. The proliferation of sensors in connected devices, the ubiquity of powerful mobile networks and the increasing maturity of big data analytics are paving the way for software-richer ITS designs that reduce the need for major new investments in hardware infrastructure.
If we assumed that mobile networks can satisfy the robust communications requirements of future intelligent transportation systems, this does suggest a diminished future role for short and medium range communications technologies.
• Sensory overload: Much of the focus during the early days of ITS was on building fixed or mobile sensor networks to gather sufficiently granular and reliable data. Today, top-selling smartphones like the iPhone 6 and Samsung S6 have up to a dozen sensors to monitor location, proximity, acceleration, humidity, light and sound. Within the automotive industry, SBD forecasts that by 2021, 24 million cars in USA, EU and China will be sold each year with external safety sensors such as radars and cameras. The sensory world is also being revolutionized by a new generation of cloud-based mapping and analytical solutions that can provide the ITS sector with a step-change in granularity, cost-effective scalability and real-time updateability.
• Connectivity proliferation: The value of sensor data grows exponentially when liberated from its host device — a key tenant of the emerging Internet of Things (IoT). According to Cisco, connected devices now outnumber the world’s population by 1.5 to 1. The growth in connectivity has been enabled in part by the growth in LTE networks across many markets, offering lower costs and faster speeds than ever before.
By 2020, SBD forecasts that over 50% of new cars will be shipped ‘connected’, driven largely by pressure within carmakers to monitor and remotely upgrade cars, along with legislative mandates for eCall in markets such as Europe and Russia.
The deployment of LTE-Advanced and, later, 5G connectivity (focusing on a more seamless ‘always on’ quality of service) will make vehicle data a truly sharable commodity. In fact, the abundance of sensors within cars makes it one of the largest generators of data across all sectors. By 2020, SBD forecasts that data extracted from cars will surpass 200 exabytes per year.
• Big Data maturity: The third major disruptor for ITS is the maturing of the Big Data sector, which is undergoing a significant transition from focusing on ‘storage-for-the-sake-ofstorage’ to business-driven real-time analytics and sharing. Until recently ‘Big Data’ was synonymous with ‘Siloed Dumb Data’, with great effort being placed on moving data to central clouds but limited progress being made in enabling real-time analytics of that data or real-time inter-cloud connectivity.
Through new IoT-specific Application Programming Interfaces it is now becoming technically and commercially easier for large clouds to share real-time data in order to develop new applications and services.
Data, the catalyst for collaboration
A city in motion generates a tremendous volume of data. Yet, for the most part, that data is untapped and its potential value is not fully captured. To do so means connecting vehicles,individuals, city and road infrastructure, and traffic authorities to enable a meaningful volume of quality data to be pooled — no single car manufacturer or road transit authority can create a data ecosystem alone.
A fully integrated ecosystem of transportation — one that includes the full spectrum of road and public transit infrastructure, and both commercial and private vehicles — can only be achieved when the different parties holding the key to the data they generate come together and agree as a first step to share that data and, as a second step, on the rules of sharing. Cloud computing and rights management can help support the rules of sharing in a secure and safe way.
Extracts from a HERE-SBD white paper on ‘Collaborative ITS: Why Collaboration has been So Difficult, and Why that could be About to Change’