Fighting Traffic with Technology

The Futurist, September 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Fighting Traffic with Technology

BY PIARC Committee on Intelligent Transport

Drivers may have an easier time in the future, thanks to access to real-time traffic information, computerized navigation, and automated cars.

Modern life demands growing mobility. This mobility is increasingly provided by private cars, but the very freedom that cars offer is severely reduced by chronic traffic congestion. Our cities have responded to this crisis with policies that try to reconcile our insatiable demand for increased mobility with the need to reduce traffic jams, protect the environment, and ensure safety. But further efforts are clearly needed.

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) can help by applying communications and information technology to the problem. Whether offering real-time information about traffic conditions, online information for journey planning, or even cars that drive themselves, these systems increase safety and reduce travel times.

The following is an overview of current types of intelligent transportation systems and some suggestions for what they might achieve in the future.

Keeping Things Moving:

Traffic Management Systems

Advanced traffic management systems ensure that networks of roadways are used to their maximum capacity. These computerized systems, commonplace all over the world, coordinate traffic signals to minimize delays, control the rate of traffic merging onto expressways, and detect accidents and vehicle breakdowns.

Such systems can be combined to solve complex traffic problems, as was done in Nagano, Japan, during the 1998 Olympic Games. Nagano's infrastructure was underdeveloped. Congestion already occurred daily and was expected to worsen with the influx of visitors. Snowy conditions were also likely.

Sensors were installed along Nagano's main arteries. The system collected and processed information about congestion, travel times, and traffic regulations. This information was provided to drivers via information boards posted along roads, telephones, faxes, and the Internet.

Infrared beacons were installed in the vehicles carrying athletes and officials. Optimum routes and travel times were calculated for official vehicles, based on their positions as broadcast by the infrared beacons, and supplied to the drivers. In addition, traffic signals were programmed to give official cars priority. The system succeeded, ensuring safe and efficient operation of official vehicles and providing accurate traffic information to other drivers.

Knowledge Is Power:

Traveler Information Systems

Uncertainty is one of the major problems that drivers face. Smart travelers use information to make better decisions about their travel plans. Transportation authorities have been collecting traffic data for many years, but they have seldom shared it with the public. Advanced traveler information systems aim to plug this gap. When more information is available to travelers, they will adjust their time, route, or mode of travel to their own advantage, improving conditions overall.

Simple traveler information systems include radio traffic reports and "localcasts" in the vicinity of special locations such as congested airports. More advanced applications include traffic congestion maps and information accessible over the Internet; in-vehicle navigation systems that provide maps, traffic flow information, and directions; and traffic information broadcast to personal communication devices (pagers, smart watches, cellular telephones, etc.).

More-detailed information that could be regularly broadcast in the future includes predicted journey times, weather conditions, Yellow Page services, parking, and park-and-ride information. Such information could encourage drivers to leave their cars at a park-and-ride site and continue the trip by public transport.

Electronic variable message signs, electronic kiosks, and cable television broadcasts are already deployed in many metropolitan areas and will soon appear in dozens more.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Fighting Traffic with Technology


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?