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THINKING HIGHWAYS @ 10


W


hen Thinking Highways launched in 2006, the formal US Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) pro-


gram was already 15 years old. Its roots go back even further, including the introduction of ramp metering in the ‘60s, the pioneering research on electronic route guidance in the ‘70s, and the first electronic toll collection in 1989. Now, 10 years later, we’re looking back at the ITS program’s impact— and how future possibilities, like self-driving vehicles and shared-use transportation systems, will change and shape the transportation land- scape in the next generation.


EVOLVING ROLES By 2006, the roles of the public and private sectors were already beginning to evolve. PrePass, a public private partnership pro-


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gram administered by the nonprofit Help, Inc., was an early success. PrePass provides pre-screening and weigh station bypass for trucks and today has grown to encompass 32 States with over 550,000 par- ticipating trucks. The FHWA’s NGSIM program was


another example of changing roles. The FHWA had pioneered the development of microsimulation models in the 1970s, but by the 2000s there were multiple commercial providers. Rather than compete with the pri- vate sector, the FHWA transitioned to a new role to facilitate improved commercial mod- els by developing improved (and open) algo- rithms as well as data sets for assessing the


accuracy of these models. In the late 1990s the


USDOT saw a need to provide a common, well-known phone number for obtaining traffic and road weather information. The Federal Communications Commission


granted the USDOT’s petition to assign


511 as this number in 2000, with the first system implemented just one year later. The program grew quickly, with States with severe winter weather leading the way, and by 2011 it was implemented in 38 States cov- ering 70 per cent of the US population. Since that time, the public and private sector roles for providing traveler information have con- tinued to evolve.


www.thinkinghighways.com


A look back on ITS: what a long, strange trip it’s been


technological successes that have defined the last decade of the ITS sector


Mike McGurrin, Carolina Burnier and Greg Hatcher assess some of the


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