Co-operative enforcement equals greater road safety

Do cooperative infrastructures offer a ready solution for automated enforcement? If we accept that enforcement is all about safety and not revenue generation, then it is perhaps time to start looking at just what cooperative infrastructures will have to offer. Identification, verification, preserving the evidence chain... all the current headaches of effective automated enforcement could perceivably be solved by the technologies and protocols encompassed by two-way communications between infrastructure and
Location Based Systems / January 23, 2012
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Technologically, there is little to stop vehicles themselves being a part of the automated enforcement infrastructure

Do cooperative infrastructures offer a ready solution for automated enforcement?

If we accept that enforcement is all about safety and not revenue generation, then it is perhaps time to start looking at just what cooperative infrastructures will have to offer. Identification, verification, preserving the evidence chain... all the current headaches of effective automated enforcement could perceivably be solved by the technologies and protocols encompassed by two-way communications between infrastructure and vehicles' onboard systems.

The case for 'cooperative enforcement' becomes even stronger when one considers the types of potential applications and the relatively minor system modifications which would be needed to achieve them. Traffic signal pre-emption could, for example, be used to encourage compliance in terms of obeying red lights and there is little reason why the time/position stamp of a vehicle's in-built GPS could not be tied to an adjacent signal's condition (red/amber/green) and provide evidence of innocence or guilt. In-vehicle advisories and systems could drive greater compliance with speed limits, while onboard systems could also provide information on emissions or axle weights.

Perceivably, even relatively complex offences such as illegal or unsafe lane merges could be included. Later iterations of cooperative infrastructure systems could potentially intervene in the driving task and force drivers to comply.

And, in the event of an offence becoming an accident, there is the potential for law enforcement officers to more accurately ascertain culpability if granted access to data held by onboard systems - 650 TISPOL's Peter van de Beek has argued for that to be allowed to happen (see 'Intelligence-led?', pp.43-44, ITS International Mar-Apr 2010).

A rare insight

But consider this statement from John Augustine, managing director of the USDOT's ITS Joint Program Office, regarding IntelliDrive, the US's cooperative infrastructure research programme:

"The IntelliDrive programme is not designed to be used for enforcement purposes. "None of the past or current research included in the ITS Strategic Research Plan relates to enforcement or compliance measures for the general public, nor do we envision the system being used for automated enforcement aimed at individual violators. The 321 Research and Innovative Technology Administration's [RITA's] priorities for IntelliDrive are to improve safety for all surface modes of transportation, increase mobility for travellers and help to mitigate the effects of environmental pollution. The ITS Joint Program Office within RITA does work with law enforcement to encourage the use of ITS technologies but the goal is to help keep law enforcement officials safe and to help first responders do their jobs more effectively in emergency situations." Augustine was at being willing to go on the record; when ITS International approached the European Commission and 374 Ertico, the CVIS cooperative project's coordinator, both declined to comment.

'The greater good'

In fact, says Rod MacKenzie, 560 ITS America's former vice president for programs and CTO, IntelliDrive does address the enforcement issue, albeit tangentially: "If you go back to VII, IntelliDrive's forebear, and look at documents setting out cooperative infrastructure's principles there is a lot of discussion of enforcement. From the earliest stages the position has been that enforcement would not be contemplated." That bluff attitude has to be set against a core rationale of achieving the greatest-possible levels of safety and involves some actually quite pragmatic thinking, however: "To be effective, cooperative safety really needs the appropriate equipment to be fitted to all vehicles. There was a real concern that the spectre of 'Big Brother' would cause people to reject in-vehicle systems and the whole premise of cooperative safety would break down. Most of all, privacy was to be protected; involuntary divulgence of information, deliberate or otherwise, just wasn't to happen." Cultural differences play a part, MacKenzie notes. Europeans, for example, are much more likely to accept the imposition of rules and regulations that are in the wider interest. With Americans, he says, there is a greater pushback against anything perceived to impinge upon personal liberties.

"Common sense often loses out," he continues. "Motorcycle helmet law is a ready example but we've also seen pushback on red light enforcement." The latter isn't helped by instances of local jurisdictions having been caught tampering with amber phase timings in order to generate greater numbers of citations, or by some smaller police departments aggressively targeting speeding in order to satisfy general financing needs.

"The US's system of government, and the segmentation we see because so much is done at the state and local level, certainly provides challenges," says MacKenzie. "Federal government actually has limited power when it comes to imposition of regulation nationally, as is evidenced by the current focus on laws to ban texting while driving. These laws are passed by the individual states - federal government can withhold funding from states which fail to implement a given law but cannot mandate that laws are passed." He adds that different ITS applications are subject to different levels of privacy.

"Take Electronic Toll Collection [ETC]. In the US, we have three main multi-agency schemes which between them administer millions of transponders. People are happy to be tolled and enjoy ETC's convenience but if any or all of those schemes were to suddenly start clocking people in and out, and issuing citations as a result, you'd see a sharp reversion to cash-driven tolling. Similarly, I think that broad-base implementation of enforcement across IntelliDrive would severely restrict adoption."

Guarded optimism

Nevertheless, with some substantial caveats in place MacKenzie still sees potential for cooperative enforcement.

"We need to make the most of IntelliDrive when it comes to getting everyone using the same platform. The US has four main areas of research; IntelliDrive and the work being done by the Commercial Vehicle [CV], transit and tolling industries. All have a part to play and all need to be brought together. Does tolling, for instance, need to transfer to 5.9GHz - a technology which hasn't been developed specifically for that application? In the bigger picture, yes it does.

"CV and transit operators are paid to operate vehicles safely and there is a federal role in this instance. Most CV operators do a good job but there's a desire to remove the bad players. There's a lot of potential for, for example, wireless weigh stations and there's an enforcement component of that. So I see CV operations and transit adopting cooperative enforcement more readily." Public attitudes will evolve over time: "Part of the challenge is that we've not deployed IntelliDrive yet and at this stage if anyone suggests it'll be used for enforcement, some people would probably not want it in their car. In the 10- to 20-year timeframe, if everyone's comfortable with camera enforcement, what difference does it make if enforcement moves in-car? That's the tipping point.

"There's already the capability to track vehicles without IntelliDrive, however. There's a lot going on in the US under the guise of Homeland Security. There's a huge enforcement system now in operation around the city of New York for instance which involves an extensive network of cameras with ANPR capabilities. Those sophisticated enforcement capabilities could be adapted for other applications, such as congestion charging. The big question is where public tolerance starts and ends; it's very much a case of sense and sensibility."

Table 1:
Classification of some wireless-enabled vehicle
applications (Courtesy of E. Sampson)
Enforcement potential
Yes; probably acceptable
Yes but probably unwelcome
Adaptive Drivetrain Management Emissions rules, perhaps speed limit 
Adaptive Headlight Aiming  -    
Blind Merge Warni  -    
Blind Spot Warning and Lane Change Assistant  -    
Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control Speed limit    
Cooperative Collision Warning Responsibility for an accident
Cross-Flow Turn Assistant -
Curve Speed Warning
Speed limit    
Electronic Vehicle Identification
Tax evasion, red light running, speeding
 ?  ?
Emergency Vehicle Warning
Emergency Vehicle Signal priority
Enhanced Route Guidance and Navigation
Highway/Railway Intersection Warning
Crossing against the red light
Intelligent Speed Adaptation
Intelligent Traffic Lights
Intersection Collision Warning
In-Vehicle Traffic Signs
Lateral/Longitudinal Collision Warning
Responsibility for accident
 ?  ?
Low Bridge Warning
Oversize vehicle
Non-Stop Tolling
Pedestrian Crossing Information
Not stopping at crossing
Point of Interest/Parking Notification
Pre-Crash Sensing
Post-Crash Warning (e-Call)
Road Condition Warning
Road Feature Notification
Safety Recall Notice
Stop Sign Violation Warning
Failure to comply
Traffic Data Collection - Probe vehicles
Traffic Signal Violation Warning
Red light running
Vehicle Noise & Emissions Limiting
Contravening regulations
Work Zone Warning
Speeding in a limited zone
Wrong-Way (Ghost) Driver Warning -

Principle into practice

In principle, says ITS-UK's ambassador (and past chairman) Eric Sampson, there is a large number of potential enforcement applications to which cooperative infrastructures are suited; he lists these in Table 1.

"To me, the main applications are: electronic vehicle identification, which opens the way to a rolling Vehicle Excise Duty [VED], and thus attacks on insurance and tax evasion, and Road User Charging (RUC); and some form of 'Black Box' that would offer the user much benefit from intelligent vehicle management and anticipatory maintenance. The latter would of course not just supply evidence of innocence in the event of a collision or similar; it would also reveal guilt after a transgression." Taking the UK as an example, he says that remarkably little has been done to address enforcement/compliance using cooperative infrastructures. Sampson puts this down to motoring organisations' inability to see the benefits and ministers' unease over public perceptions of privacy or vehicle tracking.

"I think the main UK infrastructure operators are mostly unsighted on the benefits, although the 503 Highways Agency has realised that rolling out hard-shoulder running and a 21st century information service requires something more than thousands of very expensive VMS panels and that direct delivery to the relevant vehicles is the answer. The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency seems hooked on the use of registration plates, allegedly because police forces like them, and so the analysis of benefit from, say, a modern, electronic VED disc is still unchartered territory for them.

Vehicle manufacturers have an exceedingly narrow perspective: they want to sell the infotainment and quasi-safety benefits but shy away from fitting anything that would help enforce speed limits or permit ETC." Cost will need to reduce from current levels before we see significant changes, he continues.

"Also, ministers need to realise that some form of RUC is going to be inevitable for demand management and income and, from there, recognise that a clever design of DSRC tag could also be a VED disc. It's then a short jump to joining up the dots for: opt-in intelligent speed adaptation; emissions reductions, which can be sold as eco-driving economy gains in the wallet; bespoke in-vehicle information and navigation; and a host of other 'goodies'. Unless the RUC realisation comes soon, however, I'd say that we're a minimum of seven years away from any of this happening."

Looking forward

Seven years, in strategic planning terms, is not very long. However when one considers that seven years is the answer even if all the right planets just happen to align, which is far from likely, the reality will take much longer.

Far from having a situation of 'enforcement equals safety', we have a far more tepid assertion of '...except when it doesn't' and a group of enforcement and safety professionals at odds with each other. Despite all the bluster over safety, civil liberties concerns hold sway at present and for the foreseeable, future the idea of cooperative enforcement remains just that: an idea. Perhaps it is already time to think again.

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