The 26th annual ITS World Congress could not have taken place in a more fitting host city. With the overarching theme for the 2019 event focusing on smart mobility and empowering cities, smart transportation enthusiasts from around the world descended upon Singapore – arguably one of the world’s smartest cities – for a week of discussions and hands-on sessions tackling the challenges and opportunities facing the transportation world.
Iteris transportation leaders were in attendance, and all came back inspired by the quality of debate and knowledge sharing that took place throughout the week in Singapore, a global business hub that has a clear commitment to creating a livable smart city with a higher quality of life and a connected community.
A personal highlight
In one of the first special interest sessions of the week, speakers from Japan, Korea, Australia and the U.S. laid out their visions for highly connected and automated multimodal urban systems. All agreed we are at a technological tipping point, with auto OEMs redefining both their vehicles and business models for a more connected and shared operating environment, while the public sector is coming of age with the rollout of infrastructure.
The infrastructure — not limited to vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) smart sensors but also improved roadway signage and striping — has a legacy of underinvestment. But agencies are realizing that this infrastructure, while always seen as desirable for human drivers, is essential for machines.
Infrastructure owners and operators are being urged to proceed with a “no regrets” approach to prepare for delivery of benefits from connected, not yet automated, vehicles. Some presenters were more urgent on this appeal, expecting a CAV/AV convergence as early as 2025.
Data-driven solutions still key
The need for agencies to create and use data in-house was voiced as a need to improve safety, mobility and environmental outcomes of transportation operations.
A concluding comment of the session was “It is not enough to have a dashboard, agencies need a war room to assure delivery of these benefits”.
As I reflect on that inspiring early panel and a full week of equally informative and engaging sessions, I wanted to share three personal takeaways from the 2019 ITS World Congress:
- The MaaS MoU could be pivotal
The worldwide intelligent transportation systems (ITS) industry collectively signaled its commitment to driving all stakeholders forward with the implementation of mobility as a service, or MaaS. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed, which committed to pushing forward the rapid development of seamless, integrated multimodal transport systems and services in the three global regions. The MoU promotes the development of common policies, standards, governance, business models and technologies throughout the MaaS industry. This is a very hopeful development for the global ITS industry.
- Connectivity standards are converging
After many years of essentially being at odds with each other in a virtual tug of war, the interests of dedicated short-range communications (DSRC), cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) and 5G are finally converging, overcoming prior animosities by working together and with third-party providers to determine the path forward for integrating, merging and migrating the technologies to handle growing data volumes. Again, this is another source of hope for a long-held but often fragmented conversation that now looks like it might be approaching a conclusion that will ultimately benefit users.
- Cities are finally gearing up for automated driving systems
The future is clear. Road administrators will soon be managing road segments with automated driving systems. This will require vastly improved road maintenance and management, and the implementation of V2I communications systems that leverage both deep-learning and parallel-processing tasks at the edge to ensure a higher level of safety. The road to automated driving systems has been long and there is still a way to go, but with so many key stakeholders aligned in their commitment to making bottom-up and top-down changes to road infrastructure, I think it’s safe to say that we’re moving in the right direction.
The Bottom Line
Data-driven solutions to today’s mobility challenges are still being embraced on a regional, national and global scale, but after spending a week among such a concentration of smart transportation enthusiasts, practitioners and innovators in one of the world’s smartest cities I am even more optimistic about the future. With widespread support from key global ITS stakeholders for the promotion of MaaS, the convergence of connectivity standards and the evolution of road infrastructure to prepare for the proliferation of automated vehicles, the future of mobility is in good hands.
About the Author
John Lower is Associate Vice President, Roadway Sensors at Iteris.
Connect with John on LinkedIn.