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THE VIEW Taking the Initiative Paul Hutton

Why is the ITS sector so poor at telling the world about its achievements?

Paul Hutton is head of H3B Media’s Broadcast Services Division, founder of PH Initiatives and presenter of our Thinking Aloud podcast.;;;


’ve written before how I don’t think that we as an industry blow our own trumpet enough when it comes to

letting the general public know about the advances in ITS. We tell each other how good we are but yet fail to actually explain to the end users just how much work goes into managing their journeys. So I sighed this morning when two

ITS-related news articles popped into my inbox, both from the same British newspaper. Both could have been good news stories. One was about speed cameras – and complained about them. Te other reported how phones, apps and connected nav units are used for traffic information. It could have said that this means information is now far more accurate, but it didn’t. It called it a “privacy row” as “road chiefs track phones and sat navs”. Anti-surveillance campaigners “Big Brother Watch” were called in to comment, but no-one from Tinking Highways was interviewed. Te fact the data is anonymised appeared at the very end of the article. We as an industry must do better

when it comes to telling people what we do well. However, here’s a personal example of another way in which we do almost the opposite. I was involved in a massive traffic jam this summer where I was let down in a number of ways. Te majority of Tinking Highways readers are outside the UK so I think it best to tell you we actually had a summer in Britain this year, but since the last one happened in 2006, I’m not sure we were wholly prepared. Before I start, I highlight a specific

problem and one organisation’s less- than-startling performance that day.


Tis organisation is frequently excellent, and other organisations make mistakes too. I’m not in any way singling out that organisation, just using it as a real- live, personally-informed example.

MELTDOWN It was a Sunday aſternoon in July. I was travelling with my family from relatives in a town northwest of London to my home northeast of London via the M25, London’s ring road. Firstly, my mistake – I failed to switch on my connected sat nav that may have warned me of a problem on the route. I kicked myself for not taking notice of my own advice so much that my legs were black and blue. We first realised something was

wrong when the variable message signs started reporting “incident ahead”. We had just passed a junction where we could have leſt the motorway and now we had several miles to travel before the next opportunity. I wasn’t driving so I checked the app on my phone to see that no incidents had been reported. Ten we came to a halt. Still all we knew was there was an incident ahead. I checked a

couple of other traffic apps (a you might expect I have several) and I discovered that, in roadworks ahead, a stretch of road had melted. I then discovered they had closed the road. We inched forward. For about an hour and a half, although I wasn’t taking notes at the time so it might have been shorter. It felt longer. When we finally got to the problem, we discovered the road had been shut and everything had been diverted onto the slip road and then away on one road or another. But the traffic lights that control the roundabout at the top of the slip road hadn’t had their phasing changed, so we were waiting for ages as a far greater volume of traffic used the junction than normal. Te traffic jam then made the news;

long delays due to a melting road, when what we really should have been getting was a news story about how traffic was well managed despite the melting road.

We really should have been getting a news story about how well-managed the traffic was despite the road melting

LAST EXIT FOR THE LOST Te road users were let down in several ways. Firstly it was Britain – the road shouldn’t have melted (they manage to not melt in far hotter places). Ten because the first warnings were aſter the last available exit, they appeared to come too late, (the road seemed fully shut well before any message got out), and they didn’t manage the traffic sufficiently as it was diverted. Add to that the incident took place within walking distance of one of its control centres and you can surely share my frustration. ITS gets a depressingly bad press

but by properly using the tools we have to warn people sufficiently we’ll have an endless supply of good news stories and before you know it people may actually learn to love “Big Brother” watching out for them.

Vol 8 No 3 Europe/Rest of the World

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