The surface transportation systems industry is at the dawn of a new era and level of complexity. Since the mid-20th century, there have been enormous advances in road infrastructure, and the technology operating on top of these dynamic systems has evolved as well. This technology is currently transitioning away from the strictly infrastructure-based Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) ecosystem towards a highway-vehicle-mobile device interconnected system. The new paradigm is typically referred to as “Smart Mobility”.
Upon its authorization by President Eisenhower in 1956, the US Interstate Highway System, has spawned waves of innovation dependant on the faster and safer movement of people and goods. However, the innovation did not end there. Our highway network, and the road network overall, have continued to evolve, in large part due to advancing technologies that have continuously sought to improve safety and mobility.
The 1960’s saw several key innovations to the interstate highway system that are now ubiquitous. For example, loop detectors enabled the measurement of traffic flow and occupancy. Dynamic Message Signs (DMS) began to provide warnings and information that increased awareness of road status. Ramp metering strategies smoothed traffic flow on busy roadways. The first deployment of Traffic Management Centers (TMCs) served as epicentres for coordinated responses based on varying network situations.
As such technologies matured, transportation industry associations were established to organize a nascent Intelligent Vehicle Highway Systems (IVHS) industry; later, this led to the still highly active and influential Intelligent Transportation Society of America, founded in 1991.
With the organization of the transportation industry, coordinated efforts of public and private organizations were the next step to establish the foundations for today’s trends of new and further emerging transportation technology. This opened the door to improved system architecture planning and the successful deployment of ITS across the majority of U.S. jurisdictions.
The next step is Smart Mobility, which is fast approaching. As ITS continues to evolve, we are now witnessing significant momentum towards a realistic deployment of Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAVs), requiring unprecedented levels of coordination and dialogue between the automotive and infrastructure communities.
Furthermore, location-aware mobile device (e.g. smartphone) applications have become common ways to both gather and disseminate information. This has stimulated synergistic programs facilitating direct collaboration between road operators and map navigation technology companies on motorist route choice and information.
Smart things– phones, vehicles, roads, cities and enumerated others – are today’s trends towards tomorrow’s future of Smart Vehicles, Smart Roads and ultimately, Smart Mobility – the new industry term encapsulating the emerging transportation technology suite.
Over the past two decades, Transurban has partnered with governments to meet or exceed the state-of-art for ITS. Transurban has been a pioneering adopter in the areas of all-electronic tolling, dynamic toll road pricing and advanced traffic management systems. Today, the company is highly focused on the aforementioned Smart Mobility trends – rolling out GPS-based toll payment options and testing CAV-related opportunities in broad partnership with the public, academic and private sectors. These are just two examples. The transition and assessment for optimal, new solutions is ongoing. In the rapidly changing transportation systems space, ongoing assessment and integration of emerging roadside, mobile and vehicle technologies will continue to escalate safety and mobility for motorists.