Techniques to improve driving safety or to reduce urban congestion have often focused on capital intensive strategies such as the development of new roads, new road designs, or light rail to increase the system capacity. An alternative strategy that is currently being explored, and which is less capital intensive, is to design an "intelligent transportation system" (ITS). Such a system will provide the driver with a vast variety of information--information about alternative routes or roadside services to information about crash avoidance.
However, an ITS is only one of many possible approaches to solving the critical and difficult problems of reducing traffic congestion or vehicle crashes, and it is highly unlikely that any single solution will produce a quick fix, given the complexity of the problems associated with the movement of people and material from one location to another. For example, we all know that urban travel patterns are intrinsically related to developments in city structure, the location of workplaces and drivers' residences, and the characteristics and activities of drivers.
However, information-based solutions to transportation problems do present a number of attractive features. They are relatively inexpensive compared to traditional solutions to transportation problems (e.g., building new roads and bridges are very expensive); they have low social and environmental impact; and in addition to their primary goal of improving the safety and efficiency of roadway use, they can produce a number of secondary benefits by carrying public relations and educational messages.