Friday , 20 September 2019

Getting ITS to work for you

If we ask the question what ITS is to three people in this expo, it is that there would be three different answers. Is it tracking buses through GPS? The answer would be, Yes, it is. Is Traffic signalling ITS? Yes. It is. Is Tolling system ITS? Yes. It is. Control rooms? They are also ITS.

So how do you basically organize these components that are seemingly disparate? They all help you run your road network. There are many ways of doing that. If you have ten different components, you can organise them in many different logical ways. I am going to present one way.

When we step back to look at what ITS is, we find that it is nothing but application of technologies that help run the traffic/road operations. We can be more generic to say that it helps to run the traffic system which is multi-modal.

The primary role of the road network operator is to effectively fulfill the mobility needs of the people and goods. This role is done by the UMTA, if it exists in the cities, and if not, it is the traffic police. They also have to maintain certain non-mobility related parameters at satisfactory levels. These are ensuring safety and minimising pollution due to transport.

As far as primary task is concerned, there are three components. One of the components is to monitor the transport network. For that, you have traffic sensors. In the case of road network, we have loop detectors, video detectors, micro-detectors and ANPR. These sensors gather information across the network.

Once we get information, we need to assess whether the state of the network is good enough or bad. If it is bad, we need to find optimum solutions. There are various solutions available: CoSiCost, SCOOT, MOVA and MIDAS. With this data and solutions, you can provide traffic information using VMS, Lane Control Signs traffic information using radios. You can also have slightly more controlling aspects. For example, you can have traffic signals or ramp-metering which will control the movement of the vehicles.

There are many ITS components that allow us to control the transport network. Then you have technologies to ensure safety; e.g., red-light violation cameras, environment sensors and pollution sensors.

The ANPR is commonly used in enforcement for user charging and congestion charging. There are technologies that will help one do the secondary tasks which are important as they provide quality to those who use the transport system.

ITS Solutions

Various ITS sub-components need to work in unison to fulfill the objectives of traffic management. Monitored data should be available to all sub-systems that need them. Actions may be triggered by data from different monitoring sub-components. e.g. VMS messages triggered by video detectors or ANPR or MET systems.

In a nutshell, the traffic manager should have a plan for ensuring smooth mobility. There should be coherence, e.g. signal plans and re-routing messages should reinforce each other. All ITS sub-components work together to implement this plan.

The bottom-line is that the system design should be modular and components can be replaced/upgraded easily. The ITS architecture should be based on internationally accepted interoperability standards

So we need to have an integrated ITS system where these different components come together in a seamless, automatic fashion and we should be able to do the integration easily. Whatever system you design and implement that you get through the procurement process, should be able to fulfil that.

So what does this mean for you when you specify/design ITS systems? One is that the ITS sub-components should be interoperable. That means you can actually use the information and data from different components and you can have one response across different sub-systems which is very important. Because, then there is just this one single thing that you are using to control your whole network. Also, we should not get tied to a single product, platform or vendor because a better or a new component may enter the market tomorrow.

The second thing is the entry of new technology into the picture. New vendors come with better products. You should be able to swap around or scale your system without incurring additional costs. So when you design your system, it should be modular so that the components can be replaced and upgraded easily.

ITS architecture is important. If you have a national architecture, you are not restricted to one product. You can choose any product that is well established. That means you will have lots of vendors complying with the latest innovations. You have multiple options and not tied to a single vendor. You can select a particular product suiting your requirement from a list of available vendors who support the standard. You can also run your system so that it evolves and does not get redundant.

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