ITS Technologies

Intelligent transport technologies

Intelligent transport systems vary in technologies applied, from 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; and to 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 (US deicing) systems; and the like. Additionally, predictive techniques are being developed to allow advanced modelling and comparison with historical baseline data. Some of these technologies are described in the following sections.

Wireless communications

Various forms of wireless communications technologies have been proposed for intelligent transportation systems.

Radio modem communication on UHF and VHF frequencies are widely used for short and long range communication within ITS.

Short-range communications of 350 m can be accomplished using IEEE 802.11 protocols, specifically WAVE or the Dedicated Short Range Communications standard being promoted by the Intelligent Transportation Society of America and the United States Department of Transportation. Theoretically, the range of these protocols can be extended using Mobile ad hoc networks or Mesh networking.

Longer range communications have been proposed using infrastructure networks such as WiMAX (IEEE 802.16), Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM), or 3G. Long-range communications using these methods are well established, but, unlike the short-range protocols, these methods require extensive and very expensive infrastructure deployment. There is lack of consensus as to what business model should support this infrastructure.

Auto Insurance companies have utilised ad hoc solutions to support eCall and behavioural tracking functionalities in the form of Telematics 2.0.

Computational technologies

Recent advances in vehicle electronics have led to a move towards fewer, more capable computer processors on a vehicle. A typical vehicle in the early 2000s would have between 20 and 100 individual networked microcontroller/Programmable logic controller modules with non-real-time operating systems. The current trend is toward fewer, more costly microprocessor modules with hardware memory management and Real-Time Operating Systems. The new embedded system platforms allow for more sophisticatedsoftware applications to be implemented, including model-based process control, artificial intelligence, and ubiquitous computing. Perhaps the most important of these for Intelligent Transportation Systems is artificial intelligence.[citation needed]

Floating car data/floating cellular data

Main article: Floating car data

RFID E-ZPass reader attached to the pole and its antenna (right) used in traffic monitoring in New York City by using vehicle re-identification method

“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. Broadly speaking, three methods have been used to obtain the raw data:

  • Triangulation method. In developed countries a high proportion of cars contain one or more mobile phones. The phones periodically transmit their presence information to the mobile phone network, even when no voice connection is established. In the mid-2000s, attempts were made to use mobile phones as anonymous traffic probes. As a car moves, so does the signal of any mobile phones that are inside the vehicle. By measuring and analysing network data using triangulation, pattern matching or cell-sector statistics (in an anonymous format), the data was converted into traffic flow information. With more congestion, there are more cars, more phones, and thus, more probes. In metropolitan areas, the distance between antennas is shorter and in theory accuracy increases. An advantage of this method is that no infrastructure needs to be built along the road; only the mobile phone network is leveraged. But in practice the triangulation method can be complicated, especially in areas where the same mobile phone towers serve two or more parallel routes (such as a motorway (freeway) with a frontage road, a motorway (freeway) and a commuter rail line, two or more parallel streets, or a street that is also a bus line). By the early 2010s, the popularity of the triangulation method was declining[citation needed].
  • Vehicle re-identification. Vehicle re-identification methods require sets of detectors mounted along the road. In this technique, a unique serial number for a device in the vehicle is detected at one location and then detected again (re-identified) further down the road. Travel times and speed are calculated by comparing the time at which a specific device is detected by pairs of sensors. This can be done using the MAC (Machine Access Control) addresses from Bluetooth devices,[3] or using the RFID serial numbers from Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) transponders (also called “toll tags”).
  • GPS based methods. An increasing number of vehicles are equipped with in-vehicle satnav/GPS (satellite navigation) systems that have two-way communication with a traffic data provider. Position readings from these vehicles are used to compute vehicle speeds. Modern methods may not use dedicated hardware but instead Smartphonebased solutions using so called Telematics 2.0 approaches.[citation needed]

Floating car data technology provides advantages over other methods of traffic measurement:

  • Less expensive than sensors or cameras
  • More coverage (potentially including all locations and streets)
  • Faster to set up and less maintenance
  • Works in all weather conditions, including heavy rain

Sensing technologies

Technological advances in telecommunications and information technology, coupled with ultramodern/state-of-the-art microchip, RFID (Radio Frequency Identification), andinexpensive intelligent beacon sensing technologies, have enhanced the technical capabilities that will facilitate motorist safety benefits for intelligent transportation systemsglobally. Sensing systems for ITS are vehicle- and infrastructure-based networked systems, i.e., Intelligent vehicle technologies. Infrastructure sensors are indestructible (such as in-road reflectors) devices that are installed or embedded in the road or surrounding the road (e.g., on buildings, posts, and signs), as required, and may be manually disseminated 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


Saw cut loop detectors for vehicle detection buried in the pavement at this intersection as seen by the rectangular shapes of loop detector sealant at the bottom part of this picture.

Inductive loops can be placed in a roadbed to detect vehicles as they pass through the loop’s magnetic field. The simplest detectors simply count the number of vehicles during a unit of time (typically 60 seconds in the United States) that pass over the loop, while more sophisticated sensors estimate the speed, length, and class of vehicles and the distance between them. Loops can be placed in a single lane or across multiple lanes, and they work with very slow or stopped vehicles as well as vehicles moving at high-speed.

Video vehicle detection

Traffic-flow measurement and automatic incident detection using video cameras is another form of vehicle detection. Since video detection systems such as those used in automatic number plate recognition do not involve installing any components directly into the road surface or roadbed, this type of system is known as a “non-intrusive” method of traffic detection. Video from cameras is fed intoprocessors 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. Most video detection systems require some initial configuration to “teach” the processor the baseline background image. This usually involves inputting known measurements such as the distance between lane lines or the height of the camera above the roadway. A single video detection processor can detect traffic simultaneously from one to eight 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. Some 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 and destination analysis. Bluetooth is a wireless standard used to communicate between electronic devices like mobile phones, 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 and destination matrices. Compared to other traffic measurement technologies, Bluetooth measurement has some differences:

  • Accurate measurement points with absolute confirmation to provide to the second travel times.
  • Is non-intrusive, which can lead to lower-cost installations for both permanent and temporary sites.
  • Is limited to how many Bluetooth devices are broadcasting in a vehicle so counting and other applications are limited.
  • Systems are generally quick to set up with little to no calibration needed.

Since Bluetooth devices become more prevalent on board vehicles and with more portable electronics broadcasting, the amount of data collected over time becomes more accurate and valuable for travel time and estimation purposes.

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