Resources and Publications

Explaining International IT Application Leadership: Intelligent Transportation Systems

January 9, 2010
| Reports

There are dazzling technologies at work in the world of transportation, from real-time alerts to drivers about impending road hazards to smart traffic signals, to displays of real-time traffic conditions available on your cell phone or vehicle dashboard display. Unfortunately, the United States is lagging behind many nations when it comes to using them. A new ITIF report analyses how countries have deployed ITS, why the United States lags behind, and urges expanded federal leadership and investment to get the United States onto the road to deploying Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

The report, Explaining International IT Application Leadership: Intelligent Transportation Systems, takes a detailed look at how Japan, South Korea, Singapore and other countries apply information technologies to alleviate congestion, enhance safety, and reduce the environmental impact of transportation.

They include new technologies that provide drivers with real-time information, such as transit routes and schedules providing information about delays due to congestion, accidents, weather conditions, or road repair work as well as a range of new devices such as computerized adaptive traffic signals that help to fully integrated intelligent transportation systems, tying vehicles, passengers, and devices together. If the United States were to adopt ITS, sitting in traffic at toll plazas, missing trains, unknowingly driving into dangerous conditions, and other pitfalls of getting around today will become ever rarer occurrences.
But this will require significantly stepping up the federal role in advancing ITS.

ITIF recommends that Congress:

  • Significantly increase funding for ITS, by $2.5 to $3 billion annually, including funding for large-scale demonstration projects, deployment, and the ongoing operations and maintenance of already-deployed ITS technology.
  • Expand the remit of DOT’s ITS Joint Program Office to move beyond R&D to include deployment.
  • Tie federal surface transportation funding to states’ actual improvements in transportation system performance.
  • Charge DOT with developing, by 2014, a national real-time traffic information system, particularly in the top 100 metropolitan areas, with this vision including the significant use of probe vehicles.
  • Authorize a comprehensive R&D agenda that includes investments in basic research, technology development, and pilot programs to begin moving to a mileage-based user fee system by 2020.

In summary, intelligent transportation systems empower actors in the transportation system—from commuters, to highway and transit authorities, even down to the actual traffic lights themselves—with actionable information (that is, intelligence) to make better-informed decisions, whether it’s choosing which route to take, when to travel, or whether to mode-shift; how to optimize traffic signals; where to build new roadways; or how to hold providers of transportation services accountable for results. That vision is now within our reach, but attaining it will require bold leadership.