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THE VIEW IBEC: ITS and Evaluation Dr Alan Stevens Living in a world that is connected by technology


Dr Alan Stevens is Chief Research Scientist and Research Director, Transportation at TRL and was this year’s recipient of the Hills-Rees Award for Outstanding Contribution to ITS at the ITS UK Awards. astevens@trl.co.uk


developing more widely in, for example, consumer, energy, health space and ICT (Information and Communication Technologies) sectors. Computing power and soſtware continue to develop as does the technology of personal devices such as smartphones. Several broader implications of


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this new technology can also be discerned which have implications for the way drivers’ expectation of, and interactions with, ITS is evolving, and for the way in which we evaluate the impacts of technology: • Technology democratises – an effect of the availability and accessibility of personal communications and peer to peer networking such as social media is transferring power from institutions to individuals and groups. Governments and Agencies are scrutinised and are more accountable than ever for their actions and may need to respond more quickly to public pressure. One example is the drive to make data more open, which will have implications for data-driven driver services.


• Technology creates expectations – the availability and accessibility of data and services, has created expectations (occasionally unrealistic ones) for how all information should be instantly available. Tis has implications for the way information for drivers is designed and evaluated.


• Technology lowers barriers – with the availability of data and computing power small organisations can now


Europe/Rest of the World Vol 8 No 2


he use of ITS provides opportunities for increased safety and efficiency. Technology is also


enter the market with new services delivered to drivers through a mobile phone. Tis has unleashed innovation and a growing number of stakeholders are providing products and services to drivers.


• Technology creates legacy systems – New technology and services oſten run in parallel with existing services. Sometimes a new technology will eventually replace an old (e.g. digital TV) and sometimes there are echoes of a previous generation within the new (standardisation of rail gauge, QWERTY keyboard). However, parallel running is the normal situation for many applications.


EVALUATING THE IMPACTS Conventional evaluation of the impacts around a specific new technology might be related to anticipated or measured benefits to safety, efficiency, environmental performance etc. Although important and basic, these aspects do not tell us what drivers think of the ITS, how usable it is and how they will actually use the technology (if at all) in the longer term. To address this question, which is actually fundamental to evaluating the actual impact, we need a much deeper understanding of drivers’ acceptance. In this regard it is useful to start


from two concepts from social science: “agency” and “structure” (Barker, 2005). Agency is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices. Structure is the recurrent patterned arrangements which influence or limit the choices and opportunities available.


thinkinghighways.com ❝ Drivers


have agency to accept, or not


accept, new technology and they do this within a structure that includes the price, availability, technical


performance and ease of use of that technology


❞ Drivers have agency to accept, or


not accept, new technology and they do this within a structure (or context) including, for example, the price, availability, technical performance and ease of use of that technology. “Acceptance” could be seen as language which implies a paternalistic viewpoint; in some situations a powerful agent may be trying to gain acceptance for their product, so one question is the extent to which a state of acceptance is entered willingly by the driver or whether reluctantly. Note that drivers do not always have a choice of ITS fitment (if provided by their employer or already fitted in their vehicle). Tis situation has to be understood in order to fully appreciate the impacts, and there are examples of imposed technology being sabotaged, ignored or misused. So, as part of undertaking an assessment of impacts, it is important to understand the users, and the actual use of technology within its structure (context). Concerning legacy systems, referred


REFERENCE Barker, Chris. 2005. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: Sage. ISBN 0-7619- 4156-8


to above, their role in evaluating impacts of new technology is twofold. Firstly, one valued aspect of a new technology may be the benefits from continuity (in service or style of interaction) with previous systems. Tis is very difficult to quantify but might be appreciated as reduced training needs. Secondly, account has to be taken of any lost benefits from a previous generation system including users who are now excluded from the system benefits. Tus, evaluation should encompass


how drivers respond to ITS (acceptance and use), implications for those with legacy systems, as well as impacts on society, efficiency, environment and safety.


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