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DOT releases ITS 5-year strategic plan with focus on connected vehicles and automation

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has released a new plan for ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) research and priorities for the second half of the decade. The new ITS Strategic Plan 2015-2019 outlines the direction and goals of the Department’s ITS Program and provides a framework around which the ITS Joint Program Office and other Department agencies will conduct research, development, and adoption activities to achieve them.

The ITS Strategic Plan’s framework is built around two key ITS Program priorities: realizing connected vehicle implementation and advancing automation. The first builds on the substantial progress made in recent years around design, testing, and planning for deployment of connected vehicles across the nation. The second Advancing Automation: Shapes the ITS Program around the research, development, and adoption of automation-related technologies as they emerge. The priorities reflect a sense of where the bulk of transportation research and innovation is heading, but are not exclusive of other technologies or research areas.

As our environments become more connected in general, ITS and transportation will play an ever-more important and central role in our cities, towns, suburbs, and rural communities, between regions and across borders. The transportation system as a whole can best serve vital needs when it is using technology to its fullest potential and enabling transportation system managers to effectively “connect the dots” of information from various factors that affect transportation operations (e.g., weather, planned special vents, and response to unanticipated emergencies). The priorities, themes, and program categories presented in this plan provide a structure from which to approach research, development, and adoption of emerging and important technologies.

—ITS Strategic Plan 2015-2019

The strategic themes of the plan, like the priorities, are meant to focus the attention of the ITS community on intended outcomes of new technologies and systems as they are developed, tested, and eventually adopted. The themes, which align with the USDOT strategic priorities and are embedded in the program categories, are:

  • Enable Safer Vehicles and Roadways by developing better crash avoidance for all road vehicles, performance measures, and other notification mechanisms; commercial motor vehicle safety considerations; and infrastructure-based and cooperative safety systems.

  • Enhance Mobility by exploring methods and management strategies that increase system efficiency and improve individual mobility.

  • Limit Environmental Impacts by better managing traffic flow, speeds, and congestion, and using technology to address other vehicle and roadway operational practices.

  • Promote Innovation by fostering technological advancement and innovation across the ITS Program, continuously pursuing a visionary/exploratory research agenda, and aligning the pace of technology development, adoption, and deployment to meet future transportation needs.

  • Support Transportation System Information Sharing through the development of standards and systems architectures, and the application of advanced wireless technologies that enable communications among and between vehicles of all types, the infrastructure, and portable devices.

Within the direction and the structure of the ITS Program established by the priorities and themes, individual programs perform the work that produces new systems to advance the goals of the USDOT and the ITS community at large. Program categories provide the necessary structure for research, development, and adoption of ITS technologies.

These categories reflect modal and external stakeholder input about the areas where attention, focus, and resources should be devoted. The lines between the program categories are not hard and fast; DOT expects that individual programs within these categories will often overlap or share resources, goals, deliverables, and timelines. Program categories include:

  • Connected Vehicles (CV): The USDOT will focus much of its CV program activities on adoption and eventual deployment of CV systems. CV research, development, and eventual adoption fall into two areas based on activities in the USDOT, including NHTSA plans to issue a proposal by 2016 on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) safety messaging.

    The first area is V2V communications based on dedicated short-range communications (DSRC) technology. This is the area where NHTSA is continuing to pursue its rulemaking process. DSRC-enabled devices in vehicles that broadcast safety messages may be regulated by the USDOT and thus comprise a certain set of research, development, and adoption questions that are specific to this authority.

    The second area includes other CV technologies and communications that are enabled by either DSRC or other networks, such as cellular, Wi-Fi, or satellite. Although the USDOT is not researching regulatory decisions related to these other communications technolo- gies, they are very much a part of the overall research and development foci. The ITS Program will consider how various technologies and communications media will interact and operate within the anticipated CV environment, including safety and other types of applications and messages.

  • Automation: The automation program will focus on research about automated road- vehicle systems and related technologies that transfer some amount of vehicle control from the driver to the vehicle. Automation technologies offer tremendous possibilities for enhancing safety, mobility, and the environment, but also pose new technical and policy challenges. The focus of the ITS Program in this area will be on the advancement of technology and systems to enable smooth and safe introduction of automated features into the nation’s vehicles and transportation systems.

  • Emerging Capabilities: The USDOT’s emerging capabilities program initiatives will focus on future generations of transportation systems. As the scale of CV implementation grows and automation of transportation systems increases, vehicle manufacturers, infrastructure providers, innovators, and entrepreneurs will discover new opportunities to use the technologies and data generated, while also protecting consumer privacy. Technological advances, new functionality, new applications, new operational concepts, and disruptive innovations will result. The USDOT will track technological, market, and demographic trends throughout the globe and across industries to seek and evaluate emerging capabilities that demonstrate the potential to transform transportation, while also protecting consumer privacy.

  • Enterprise Data: With increased connectivity among vehicles, organizations, systems, and people, unprecedented amounts of data are being generated. New methods to collect, transmit/transport, sort, store, share, aggregate, fuse, analyze, and apply these data will be needed for management and operations of transportation systems. Enterprise data management initiatives focus on enabling effective data capture from ITS-enabled technologies, including CVs (automobiles, transit, and commercial vehicles), mobile devices, and infrastructure in ways that protect the privacy of users. These activities also focus on enhancing the creation of data environments that enable integration of data from multiple sources for use in transportation research, management, and performance measurement.

  • Interoperability: Interoperability is essential to ensure effective connectivity among devices and systems. Interoperability focuses on enabling ITS elements in vehicles, devices, infrastructure, and applications to effectively communicate with other parts of the system as needed, regardless of where they are built and where or when they are used. Interoperability will be more critical than ever before with the implementation of CV systems and the introduction of automated transportation systems as system interdependencies increase, not only in number but also in complexity. Standards and architectures must continue to evolve to ensure that technological advancements are reflected, and the required backward compatibility and interoperability are maintained.

  • Accelerating Deployment:As new ITS technologies and systems evolve into market-ready products, the ITS Program must address questions associated with adoption and deployment. As defined in the plan, adoption includes the phase after testing, when technologies are ready for initial implementation in the “real world.” As technologies transition from adoption to large-scale deployment, the responsibility of support for operators and deployers shifts from research and development to operations. Ensuring a smooth transition from initial adoption (seen as part of the overall research and development lifecycle) to widespread deployment, and working closely with deployers to understand and manage that transition require special attention and detailed programs.

The ITS Strategic Plan was developed with significant stakeholder input from all relevant parties, both within and external to the Department. Close collaboration with all surface transportation modes (highways, rail, transit, motor carriers) and other agencies within the USDOT, such as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, helped shape the direction of the plan.


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