Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Intelligent Transportation Systems: The future of travel?


What is the future of intelligent transportation systems?
What is the future of intelligent transportation systems?

Rapidly advancing technology during the past few decades has changed how we work, how we entertain ourselves, and how we connect with one another. Now advances in technology promise to improve how we drive.

According to an IBM white paper, titled "The Case for Smarter Transportation," in 2007 Americans "wasted 4.2 billion hours, 2.8 billion gallons of fuel and $87.2 billion due to traffic congestion."

Intelligent transportation systems are a vision of a future that integrates existing transportation infrastructure with communication networks in an effort to reduce congestion and travel time. In doing so on a mass scale, the larger effect of intelligent transportation systems is to limit the release of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, cut back on fuel consumption and improve road safety.

It’s hard to argue technology hasn’t already had an impact. On-board computers maximize engine performance and lead to a safer ride. Hybrid cars have created a new class of vehicle with higher fuel efficiency. GPS systems ensure that passengers get to their destination as efficiently as possible.

But intelligent transportation systems imply improvements not only in vehicle technology but also the creation of an integrated networks linking cars and trucks with roadway infrastructure. Because many of these component technologies are still in their theoretical or experimental phase, there are a range of prescriptions for setting a standard for deploying technological improvements on our nation’s transportation infrastructure.

Although specific applications require research, testing and pilot studies before they could be deployed on a scale large enough to have an impact on urban traffic congestion, different approaches share a combination of high- and low-tech solutions to traffic problems.