How intelligent transportation systems are changing mobility

Fleet managers are recording vehicle positions and driving behavior, cities and local authorities are collecting information about traffic flows, and private cars are increasingly becoming a source of data. Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are on the advance, and with their data and services our understanding of mobility is also changing fast.

Digitization has disruptive consequences. Right now nobody is more keenly aware of that than the taxi drivers. In June 2014 thousands of them blocked the streets of European cities. The reason for this protest was smartphone apps like Uber. Private motorists use them to offer taxi services at much lower cost, thereby threatening the business model of established taxi operators.


The fate of the taxi business is but one example of the increasing digitization of transportation and traffic. The more drastic the consequences of this trend, the more strident are the calls for legislation. Taxi drivers call for stricter regulation of private motorists who carry passengers. Politicians are called upon to set the framework conditions for change. That is no easy task because it means striking a balance between different interests.


Data is the new oil


The more information is available, the sounder the basis for the decisions that need to be taken. That is why data is key to this development. It is seen as the new oil because it only becomes really valuable after processing: in the case of oil into fuel and in that of data to information. In transportation a shared database would benefit all road users. With precise analysis and evaluation of traffic, congestion can be prevented and faster routes can be identified.


An important role in this connection is played by the Internet of Things. A growing armada of connected objects and places is recording more and more extensive data about us and our surroundings. In transportation, the Intelligent Transportation Systems that are used have reached different stages of complexity in different parts of the world. In threshold countries telematics solutions are used for individual applications. Many European cities, in contrast, are already connecting different technologies to set up extensive systems.


Pisa trials the use of ITS


Initial steps in this direction are being taken by the Italian city of Pisa, a transfer location of the ITS standardization program POSSE, short for Promoting Open Specifications and Standards in Europe. In cooperation with Deutsche Telekom and its partner Kiunsys, the Tuscan city is currently testing a sensor-assistance parking guidance system. It guides motorists by app to free parking spaces and thereby ensures a better traffic flow and lower CO2 emissions.



Pisa has also replaced residents’ parking permits and special permits in paper form by chip cards with built-in RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags. In combination with RFID gates the city is thereby able to control traffic in restricted access. If, for example, access to a shopping street is restricted to delivery vehicles, the bollards could be lowered automatically whenever a vehicle with a suitably programmed chip card approaches.


Usage data helps with traffic planning


The RFID gates also serve as data collectors. They document the RFID tags of vehicles that pass through and show the city which streets are used most frequently and when. This information is especially important for traffic planning because it reveals bottlenecks. Public transportation operators also benefit because the more they know about traffic in the city the more precisely they can plan their routes and connections.


As these systems gain currency our expectations of public transportation or individual traffic are changing. As customers of the public transportation operator we want to know as precisely as possible how long we must wait for the next bus or streetcar. The situation is much the same for motorists as navigation systems tell us with increasing precision when we are likely to arrive at our destination.


Paradigm shift in individual transportation


New technologies are also providing fresh insights into our mobility behavior. Fleet managers, for example, are using fleet management systems to keep an eye on vehicle usage and to give drivers advice on how to drive in a way that saves fuel. Car insurers are showing increasing interest in driving behavior. They are taking up concepts such as usage-based insurance and pay-as-you-drive. The idea behind them is that motorists pay not a flat-rate but a usage-based insurance premium. If you drive safely and your mileage is low, you pay less than somebody who drives a lot, is constantly accelerating jerkily, and takes bends sharply.


The insurance industry is not alone demonstrating that our understanding of mobility is in the throes of redefinition. The tip of the iceberg as matters stand is the self-driving car that wends its way safely through traffic without driver assistance. It brakes and accelerates smoothly and never exceeds the speed limit. Its driving behavior is the benchmark for the lowest insurance premium or the ideal truck driver. So usage-based insurance is a foretaste of the road traffic of the future. It motivates us to keep to the ideal of a predictable style of driving that will minimize both accident risk and fuel consumption.


Merging data sources


Data interchange in transportation will continue to increase. For one, vehicles will communicate with each other and pass on warning messages, for example. For another, a stronger interlocking of road users and municipal infrastructure awaits us. If a balance is to be struck between further improvements in traffic and protection of personal data, citizens, politicians and business enterprises must get together around a table and establish a framework for intelligent transportation systems.

Tags: M2M , Internet of Things , Mobility , Kiunsys , Intelligent Transportation Systems , RFID , Usage-based Insurance

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