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Gearing up for IntelliDrive cooperative traffic management

First publishedin ITS International
2010 November December

AASHTO's John Horsley outlines how his organisation is preparing for the future deployment of IntelliDrive cooperative infrastructure and applications

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John Horsley
John Horlsey
Beginning in the first quarter of 2010 it became evident that the IntelliDrivesm programme direction had been reestablished, by the USDOT's ITS Joint Program Office (JPO), after being adrift for a few years. The programme was now moving toward a deployment future and with a much broader stakeholder involvement than it had exhibited previously. By today not only is it evident that the programme was reestablished with a renewed emphasis on deployment, it is also apparent that it is moving along at a faster pace because of the many USDOT personnel involved.

In 2009 many, including AASHTO (the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials), thought the programme had taken a step backward. At that time, AASHTO felt that a stable programme environment was essential and that the Association needed to demonstrate leadership and commitment to ensure it would be able to achieve the promises IntelliDrive appeared to offer. Consequently, in September last year, AASHTO produced a strategic plan.

 IntelliDrive strategy

 AASHTO's plan has six strategic themes including: leadership; partnerships; communications, outreach and education; promotion of a stable environment; research and development; and deployment emphasis. In addition, there was set of follow-on work tasks which would help in achieving these six themes. Taken in its entirety, the strategic plan and the work tasks it outlined gave us an independent mechanism with which to maintain the programme energy within the AASHTO community.

One of the first elements from the strategic plan work items was to create a Pooled Fund Study (PFS) which allowed the states to combine research investments that would allow us to conduct our own research on IntelliDrive applications. The following states are now members of the PFS: Virginia, Michigan, New York, Minnesota, California, Texas, Florida, Texas, Washington State, FHWA and Maricopa County Arizona. The Pooled Fund has around $700,000 in research funding.

A PFS is a traditional means by which states can realise larger research efforts than they can on their own. Typically, an individual state will invest $25,000 to $100,000 to conduct the research and to cover administration and travel expenses. Over time, PFS have been a successful way for states to make advances on their own and only be accountable to their own oversight and direction.

Three PFS research projects are now under way: the University of Virginia is looking at development of signal timing algorithms using IntelliDrive probe data; Auburn University is researching the use of probe data for determining pavement condition; and the University of California Berkeley PATH is engaged in a project examining Signal Phase and Timing (SPaT) information broadcasting to vehicles.

The  Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) is planning to make larger investments in the PFS of $1 million to advance mobility applications. A Memorandum of Cooperation between FHWA and the PFS is now being developed that will guide the selection and development of mobility applications using real-time probe data for better road way management. If the cooperate effort is successful the FHWA investments may grow to more substantial amounts.

Last year, the AASHTO Subcommittee on Systems Operation and Management proposed a $1 million NCHRP study to deliver additional parts of the AASHTO Strategic Plan. This year $500,000 was provided and in the closing days of September programme concepts were established at the Transportation Research Board Offices in Washington, DC. Items discussed included developing a joint strategic plan with the automobile industry and a benefit assessment of the applications identified in the AASHTO Deployment Plan.

Another task identified under the strategic deployment theme was a set of guidelines for IntelliDrive infrastructure deployment, operations and maintenance. The JPO has sponsored Michigan DOT to develop these guidelines along with Florida DOT, which will use them during the ITS World Congress demonstrations in Orlando, Florida in 2011. After the Congress the guidelines will be updated and will eventually become an AASHTO IntelliDrive Design Guide.

A major work task from the strategic plan is an AASHTO deployment plan, now under way and expected to be completed early next year. There is a series of tasks that will lead to a set of deployment scenarios and a set of policy and investment recommendations that will be taken to both AASHTO's board of directors and its executive leadership team, which is a policy guidance institution composed of AASHTO, the automobile industry and the USDOT.

The deployment plan tasks include: the establishment of a clear programme direction based on historic and current USDOT efforts; the selection of a set of applications that the AASHTO community will support; a market assessment of vehicle, aftermarket and communications trends over the period 2009 to 2014; a survey of leading state development and deployment activities; an assessment of DSRC and GPS market readiness; an assessment of the challenges to replacing or upgrading all the signal controllers with DSRC radios; development of a set of regional pilot deployment sites covering all the AASHTO regions; and a policy paper to launch discussions with the AASHTO board of directors and the executive leadership team.
Of the tasks listed above, the first two are now under review by the AASHTO while the third and fourth are now under way.

Understanding the challenges of IntelliDrive

The deployment scenarios work will push our thinking so that we can create mental pictures of what a deployed infrastructure will look like. They will also give a better understanding of what the design, construction and operations challenges will be and allow for entrepreneurs and investors to create teams for the pilot deployments. This work is filled with uncertainties and aspirations and will be grounded somewhat in our recent experiences. Also in September AASHTO, with the auto industry and the USDOT, conducted a workshop to look at early thoughts on the deployment scenarios.

Communication with, outreach to and education of the broad AASHTO community is a theme that we are working on with USDOT support. We have several near-term goals including creation of: a briefing document for the state and county transportation executives that explains IntelliDrive and the potential benefits - this briefing document will be ready at the end of the year and will be used to inform all the new state DOT directors that will be appointed after this fall's election; briefing documents for appropriate AASHTO and county committees and agencies - these documents will be for those deploying and operating IntelliDrivesm in the future; a set of presentations that can be given to the states and counties at appropriate meetings; an outreach task force to guide the work.

Some challenges

AASHTO has been a strong supporter of first VII and now IntelliDrive since its beginning in 2004. We believe that there is nothing else on the horizon that offers the potential safety and mobility benefits that this programme offers. Nonetheless there are challenges, for example we need a description of IntelliDrive that can be easily understood by the common person. This needs to make clear the benefits that the programme will allow.

Another challenge is the long timeframes required to bring the ideas enshrined in IntelliDrive to deployment readiness. It has been six years since the programme started and we are still carrying out developmental research, although the 2013 deadline for NHTSA to determine if some type of regulatory decision is appropriate provides us with a clearer incentive for deployment. Today we have aspirations that with focused and systematic work, and with an appropriate mindset, we get take closer to deployment.

A common question asked about infrastructure deployment, and this question is normally directed at roadside DSRC units and other infrastructure, is how can agencies afford this investment when they already have significant revenue shortfalls when it comes to maintaining what they already have in place? Another question frequently asked is what sort of staffing skills will be required to maintain the infrastructure (and of, course, what does this infrastructure deployment really entail)? These questions are certainly significant and will require some debate.

The question of what the infrastructure deployment entails will be somewhat clarified with the deployment scenarios developed from the AASHTO Deployment Plan now under way.

However, earlier analysis indicated that approximately 200,000 roadside units would be required at an investment of $6 billion. A benefit cost analysis conducted by Volpe a few years ago demonstrated $44 billion in benefits from safety over 40 years. The benefit cost study certainly is persuasive to justifying the investments; the only question is where the money comes from. In this year's authorisation proposals AASHTO recommended a new funding category for operations that would be distributed to the states based on current formulas. The amount proposed is $3 billion per year. If this were to be adopted there would be funding available for IntelliDrive infrastructure provided the concepts were clear and the benefits were defined.

The staffing skills required to operate and maintain the infrastructure depends on how much is done by agencies and what might be done by telecommunications providers. This division of responsibility is not yet clear. Many agencies today operate and maintain telecommunications equipment, so this shouldn't be much of a problem. Those that do not maintain or operate telecommunications equipment could contract out the maintenance or pool the maintenance with other adjacent states.

The state DOTs have been resourceful in the past in responding to environmental challenges, introducing computers into the agencies and dealing with funding issues. The challenges of IntelliDrive will be met when IntelliDrive is ready for deployment.

Companies in this article

Auburn University
Federal Highway Administration
ITS World Congress
Michigan DOT
Transportation Research Board
University of California Berkeley PATH
University of Virginia

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