Dwight Eisenhower’s vision for a coast-to-coast interstate highway system began when he was serving as an Army officer in Europe during World War I. It would be a half-a-century later, during his first term as President, that the first of 47,856 miles of high-speed, four- and six-lane roads were constructed. The entire project would take 35 years to complete, and in today’s dollars, would cost more than $500 billion.
Today, in cities and towns across the country, mayors, city commissioners, governors, state legislatures, and even the President, are looking for ways to make our nation’s highways, roads, bridges, airports, public transit systems, and other key pieces of infrastructure once again the envy of the world.
The Intelligent Transportation Society of America is playing a key role in helping frame those discussions and debates. As the nation’s leading advocate for the technological modernization of our transportation system, we believe that by incorporating smart technologies — from traffic management systems and integrated mobility systems, to connected and autonomous vehicles — into our existing and new infrastructure, we can have a safer, more efficient way of moving people and goods. We are fortunate to bring together all key stakeholders in the intelligent transportation movement, including established and emerging private companies, public agencies, and state DOT officials, as well as leaders in the academic and research communities, who are all working to deploy these technologies.
To be successful, any project needs clear direction, a plan, and leadership. To help advance the conversation at the local, state and national levels, ITS America worked with its members and other stakeholders to create a public policy roadmap: "The Road Ahead: Intelligent and Transformative Transportation, the Next Generation of Mobility". We released this roadmap just a few weeks ago. Key points include:
- Intelligent, transformational, transportation technologies will save countless lives, improve our nation’s economy, and make our transportation system more efficient and safer.
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 35,092 people died in accidents on U.S. roadways during 2015. That is a 7.2% increase from 2015 when 32,744 people lost their lives. Injuries were also up in 2015, 2,440,000, from 2,340,000 in 2014. If that many people were injured or lost their lives in any other mode of transportation there would be outcries for ways to address it.
- New vehicle technology, such as connected and autonomous crash avoidance and driving automation systems, are game changers. Research shows that driver error is in part responsible for more than 90% of all accidents. Impaired and distracted drivers cause more than half of the deaths.
- Intelligent transportation technologies will provide equities that do not currently exist in the system providing solutions for seniors, the disabled, and those who need more mobility options.
- Intelligent transportation gets more bang for less buck. The “sharing economy” expands mobility by leveraging idle vehicles. This is exemplified in new car sharing, ride-sharing, and ride-hailing services, such as Zipcar, Via, Uber, and Lyft, and we are seeing these options expand from cities to smaller communities and rural areas.
- Vehicle to vehicle and vehicle to infrastructure communications technologies are being rolled out by both automotive and afterproduct manufacturers. Lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control, and back-up and side cameras are becoming more standard, and with these technologies, the public is becoming more aware of what intelligent transportation systems are and what they can do. State highway departments are allowing testing of these technologies, as well as incorporating intelligent systems into existing and new highways and roads.
- Squeezing more out of less infrastructure is also becoming critical. Smart parking features are already becoming commonplace in communities and other services that match drivers with parking spots and congestion pricing, paired with road capacity and trip demand, can help achieve shorter, more predictable travel.
- Include broadband networks in any infrastructure legislation, including broadband funding for rural or otherwise hard-to-serve areas. Support a technology-driven approach to spectrum sharing between Wi-Fi and Dedicated Short Range Communication (DSRC) that allows Wi-Fi use in the 5 GHz band, but in a way that preserves the safety and utility of DSRC without unduly burdening road users and transportation infrastructure operators.
The White House is talking about creating a $1 trillion investment into upgrading our country's infrastructure. Congress is already discussing ways to finance such an investment. U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has acknowledged that a technological revolution is underway and changing the way “... we work, live, travel, and conduct commerce, and this Department has an unprecedented opportunity to help shape that future for our country.”
It is not unlike the challenges our predecessors faced more than 60 years ago, as concrete was being poured to build the interstate systems and construct our airports. The future is full of possibilities, and ITS America is here to help serve as a source of information and experience to deliver the next generation of transportation.
Regina Hopper is president/CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America.