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Connected vehicles, connected systems equals next generation ITS

First publishedin ITS International
May June 2012
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Iteris President and CEO Abbas Mohaddes
Iteris President and CEO Abbas Mohaddes: The next phase of ITS evolution is the connected vehicle initiative

Iteris has been awarded a new contract to lead a team working to update and support  the United States’ National ITS Architecture. Pete Goldin reports on this latest initiative to help all US agencies’ development and application of ITS systems

The United States Department of Transportation has a set of standards safeguarded for ITS for the US, with a vision for the future of transportation technology called the National ITS Architecture. This may sound like a secret plan kept in a vault somewhere, but the National ITS Architecture is actually available to every bit of the US’ ITS industry.

“The National ITS Architecture program is the cornerstone of the federal ITS program. It (the architecture) provides a common framework for planning, defining, and integrating Intelligent Transportation Systems,” states Iteris President and CEO Abbas Mohaddes. Iteris was awarded the prime contract from USDOT’s Research & Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) for the National ITS Architecture Evolution & Support Program in April.

The National ITS Architecture defines the functions that are required for ITS; the physical entities or subsystems where these functions reside; and the flows of information and data that connect the functions and physical subsystems together. It provides all this information in a variety of formats to stakeholders working on ITS in the US.

Leading the way

“As prime contractor for the evolution and support program, Iteris leads a team of ITS specialists developing the national architecture and facilitating its implementation across the country,” Mohaddes explains.

The program addresses architecture evolution, ITS deployment, international borders and connected vehicles. Iteris’ involvement includes all aspects of the program: connected vehicle systems engineering support, deployment support, architecture maintenance, outreach, technical support, and stakeholder educational and training workshops.

In addition to Iteris, Lockheed Martin, ConSysTec Corporation, and Ice & Associates are also contributing ITS expertise. “This team has worked together to develop, support and maintain the national architecture for several years,” Mohaddes says. “The familiarity of the team members and firms allows us to function as if we are members of the same company, with each member contributing to various aspects of the program. This provides RITA with a team of depth and flexibility for applying resources to the program’s numerous demands.

“Our team works carefully with stakeholders from across the country and the federal government, keeping the national ITS architecture up to date as ITS evolves,” Mohaddes adds. “We provide expertise based not only on the maintenance and evolution of the architecture, but also on its application and the education of the stakeholders using it.”

Program funds are applied through task orders based on needs identified by the USDOT. These needs will evolve over the course of the five-year program – which has a funding ceiling valued at $12.4M – depending on demand for the program’s support.
The contract, which began in April 2012, has a two year base period and includes three one-year options that if taken would extend through 2017. The initial two-year task order is anticipated to utilize $4.9M, with a significant portion allocated to support connected vehicle systems architecture maintenance and alignment.

ITS Version 7.0

The national architecture is not a new idea and Iteris is not new to the program. Over the last 15 years, Iteris has provided support to the USDOT in developing the architecture and facilitating its implementation across the country.

Many other organisations have been involved as well. The current architecture reflects the contributions of a broad cross-section of the ITS community – transportation practitioners, systems engineers, system developers, technology specialists and consultants.

One of the main goals for the creation of the national architecture was to define the key interfaces for standardisation. Within the framework, ITS standards for development can be identified by developers; planners can integrate regional ITS elements using these standards and achieve their interoperability goals; and ITS deployers can select the standards that reduce risk to their deployment and consequently help to manage costs and schedules.

Ultimately, the national architecture is used to develop regional ITS variations of the same for states, metropolitan areas, or other regions of interest. It includes a broad menu of options that can be tailored and applied to any region. Since the late 1990s, the program has been used as the basis for the development of over 270 local ITS architectures. The program has provided guidance, tools and technical support to municipalities to facilitate successful ITS deployments. 

The current national architecture is referred to as ITS 7.0 and is comprised of three layers. The Institutional Layer includes the institutions, policies, funding mechanisms and processes required for effective implementation, operation and maintenance of ITS.

The Transportation Layer – the heart of the architecture – defines transportation services in terms of the subsystems and interfaces and the underlying functionality and data definitions required. Finally, the Communications Layer provides a description of the communications services and technologies that support ITS.

Iteris led a team of experts in the development and release of Version 7.0 of the national architecture under a previous evolution and support contract. This also included the development and release of Version 7.0 of the Turbo Architecture software tool, available via free download, enabling stakeholders to develop and maintain their regional ITS architectures. Version 7.0 of the National ITS Architecture is available at www.its.dot.gov/arch/index.htm. “The website has been updated with a new look and feel to improve the accessibility of the architecture information,” Mohaddes says.

Next generation ITS: connected vehicles

The National ITS Architecture continues to evolve, to reflect a vision for the next generation of ITS. Driving that evolution is also part of Iteris’ charter.

“The next phase of ITS evolution is the connected vehicle initiative,” Mohaddes says. “Connected vehicle technology is a major initiative focused on the development and deployment of a fully connected transportation system that makes the most of multi-modal, transformational applications requiring a robust, underlying technological platform. The platform is a combination of well-defined technologies, interfaces and processes. Combined, they ensure safe, stable, interoperable, reliable system operations that minimise risk and maximise opportunities. This is a very exciting initiative to be involved with.”

Connected vehicle technology involves both vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications, transmitting vehicle data such as position, speed, and location. The USDOT’s ultimate vision is that all vehicles on the road will be able to communicate with each other and the infrastructure. RITA’s current connected vehicle research program recently completed a series of clinics throughout the US to assess driver interaction with vehicle communication systems. The next step is a Safety Pilot Model Deployment of V2V and V2I technology in Ann Arbor, Michigan, scheduled to begin in August 2012.

“The promise of connected vehicle technology to provide a richer, more robust source of transportation data from vehicles and infrastructure is a major step in ITS evolution,” Mohaddes asserts. “The national architecture evolution and support program plays a key role in this as it includes connected vehicle core system architecture.”

The core system architecture was developed under a separate connected vehicle initiative program in 2010 and 2011, by Iteris and Lockheed Martin. “Our role now is to preserve the core system definition as the connected vehicle environment evolves and to sustain linkages between the core system and the National ITS Architecture,” explains Mohaddes. “This will allow participants to begin planning for connected vehicle implementations in the same way they have used the national architecture.”

Mohaddes points out that a primary benefit of the national architecture is its provision of a common point of reference.

Stakeholders from different industries and organisations are able to discuss and apply the ITS functions needed to plan and deploy. The architecture promotes institutional communication and integration, and its functional definition mirrors the institutional functions and interconnections that are required for ITS and soon, the connected vehicle environment.

“There are no specific plans for a Version 8.0 of the National ITS Architecture at this time,” Mohaddes confirms. “The updates to the national architecture are required when significant changes have advanced in the ITS environment or new initiatives have progressed to a point requiring guidelines for stakeholders to implement in their ITS planning.”

“Connected vehicle technology is the exciting initiative currently evolving,” he continues. “Demonstration projects and ongoing research in this area over the next two years will yield new insights that could modify the core system architecture and possibly influence the National ITS Architecture definition.”

Other areas continuing to evolve in ITS include commercial vehicles, emergency management and international border information exchanges. Iteris’ responsibilities also involve monitoring these categories and making necessary changes to the National ITS Architecture to keep it current. Mohaddes concludes: “These prestigious and important programs are expected to play a key role in the next phase of ITS evolution and implementation across the country.”

Companies in this article

Lockheed Martin
The United States Department of Transportation

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