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08 September 2014



World Congress celebrates coming of age in Detroit

First publishedin ITS World Congress
Daily News
Day 1
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 Scott Belcher
Scott Belcher President and CEO of ITS America

This is the 21st ITS World Congress and as Scott Belcher, President and CEO of ITS America, puts the event in its wider context, it’s clear that ITS has come of age

Q The theme of this year’s ITS World Congress - Reinventing Transportation in our Connected World – suggests that this is a very forward looking programme?

A I think delegates who were here yesterday have already seen a taste of that with the opening program. The High Level Policy Roundtable that officially began the week was an inspiring event which brought together public sector policy leaders from around the world to discuss global and local transportation issues in a notable and thought-provoking manner. And of course, General Motors’ CEO Mary Barra and US DOT Secretary Foxx’s addresses during the official opening ceremony were absolutely in line with the Congress theme of reinventing transportation in our connected world. Both provided insightful views on the changing transportation environment around the world as well as the rapidly evolving technology that is changing transportation. So we’re in exciting times, on the cusp of this industry realising the potential it has had for many years, and which has been spoken about and demonstrated at previous ITS World Congresses.

It is also good to be able to recognise the efforts of the army of people that have worked tirelessly to put this World Congress together.

Q You seem to be stating that we have reached a tipping point for the ITS industry and for the benefits it can provide?

A We have certainly reached a tipping point, and that is not just my view. The evidence supports it. Just over a week ago, ITS America, in partnership with the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the Centre for Clean Energy Innovation (CCEI), and the Digital Energy and Sustainability Solutions Campaign (DESCC), released a report detailing how technology can ease traffic, reduce oil consumption and harmful greenhouse gas emissions.
As I said at the launch of “Accelerating Sustainability: Demonstrating the Benefits of Transportation Technology,” when applied and connected on a national scale, advanced vehicle, infrastructure and aftermarket technologies can reduce US oil consumption by hundreds of millions of barrels per year, in some cases tripling the efficiency benefits of currently available technologies. For example, wireless applications like vehicle platooning could produce millions of barrels of fuel savings per year.

We backed up those statements with four real world case studies where information and communications technology (ICT) and ITS have already produced measurable results across the country. For instance, the smart parking system in Ellicott City, Md., that relays information about available parking spaces has reduced cruising time drivers spent looking for open spots by 21%. The Smithsonian Institution reduced the fuel consumption of its fleet of vehicles by 52% by using GPS tracking and wireless communication to better manage its vehicles.

On a larger scale, Los Angeles County, Calif. used a synchronisation program to better manage traffic signals to meet demand along its major arteries and saved drivers 31.3 million hours of travel time and 38 million gallons of fuel that would otherwise have been wasted in traffic each year. Similarly, Pittsburgh, PA, tested an adaptive signal control system in one neighbourhood and reduced travel time by 25%.

As Congress works to pass a long-term transportation bill next year, we hope this study will provide a roadmap to help navigate the latest transportation technologies and their real-world benefits as policymakers work to promote a safer, smarter, more efficient and sustainable transportation future. And anyone attending this World Congress, whatever area, discipline, or technology they are particularly interested in, will find plenty here in Detroit to advance their knowledge and understanding.

Q Are you referring to the Technology Showcase?

A The Technology Showcase, much of which is being staged on the amazing facility that is Belle Isle, is certainly a key part of this Congress and one facet that I believe will be remembered for years to come. But the real world-benefits of ICT and ITS technologies that can be adopted more widely, on a national and on a global scale abound here. The packed Congress programme of sessions covers every possible aspect of ITS presented by politicians, policy-makers and technical experts from around the world. And of course the dynamic exhibition hall where so many companies and organisations are showing real-world solutions and technologies that have the potential to change all our lives for the better.

There are more than 34,000 lives lost in road accidents in the US every year. The technologies on display highlight  the potential safety benefits ITS can offer in terms of reducing the appalling scale of death and injury on roads, and the enormous costs that can be saved by reducing congestion, unclogging our roads and making transportation more efficient and sustainable.

Q Could you provide some examples of specific technologies that will have a major effect and which are featured at this event?

A We are showcasing a wide variety of technologies ranging from connected and autonomous vehicles, vehicle to grid charging, interoperable tolling and ride share technologies. At Belle Isle we have demonstrations of some of today’s cutting edge technologies from the likes of General Motors, Honda, Bosch and many others.

Truck builder Peterbilt will be demonstrating an autonomous assisted driving demonstrator which has huge potential to reduce driver fatigue, improve safety and cut fuel consumption.  Also out there are demonstrations of systems to keep the driver connected without causing the distractions that are increasingly leading to crashes on our roads.  
The industry has long struggled with tolling interoperability and needs to achieve this by 2016. There is no need to wait two years to see technology that could provide nationwide interoperability – we have demonstrations throughout Congress on Bell Isle, alongside a system to automatically enforce HOV and HOT lanes. 

In the Atwater Parking lot there are demonstrations of automated vehicles, in-vehicle VMS and truck platooning – these technologies really will make a big impact in the lives of all motorists. The other major area is the vehicles we drive and what powers them. Alternative fuel technologies have a huge role to play: Gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid, battery electric, hydrogen fuel cell, and compressed natural gas vehicles offer tremendous fuel efficiency gains when compared to average conventional gasoline vehicles. When coupled with the emerging ITS technologies these vehicles tick all the boxes be they safety, efficiency or environmental.
ITS has been around for a couple of decades now and many may consider it to be a mature industry but a look at the conference program shows that there are still many challenges ahead – and the exciting part is only just beginning.?

“There is plenty here in Detroit to advance knowledge and understanding”

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