Wednesday, March 30, 2011

"Smart Technologies" Could Improve Transportation

The post below is excerpted from the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) daily newsletter. It summarizes an attempt of Congress to improve transportation conditions by employing Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS).

I have been teaching these methods for over a dozen years as part of my CEE 661: Intelligent Transportation Systems graduate course at the UH-Manoa. What is different this time is $1.2 Billion dollars in federal funding over six years for the pilot deployment in six competing cities.

I hope that the bill will go forward and I hope (but do not expect) that Honolulu and State of Hawaii will vie for this ITS initiative. Besides being substantially congested, Honolulu presents an excellent, fully controlled traffic laboratory. By that I mean that 100% of the traffic is local, as opposed to, say, Chicago, that at any time 5% to 15% of its traffic is from neighboring Indiana, Wisconsin and other states, thus its local ITS initiative is diluted by a large number of non-participating vehicles.

The Hill (3/30, Laing) reports, "A bipartisan pair of lawmakers on Tuesday announced a bill to create six pilot 'intelligent transportation systems' they say will use technology to ease transit woes in cash-strapped American cities. Reps. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.) said their 'Smart Technologies for Communities Act' would make improvements to transportation that federal and state governments could not otherwise afford." Notably, "the bill would create pilot programs in six cities to test whether technologies such as cars with crash sensors, bridges that can sense stress from vehicle weight, electronic toll systems and live updates to commuters improve overall commutes."

The Detroit News (3/30, Shepardson) reports the bill "would provide grants to make 'Intelligent Transportation Systems' a reality." They support "spending $1.2 billion over six years" on the initiative. The News says "the pair will tout their bill along with Intelligent Transportation Society of America CEO Scott Belcher in a press briefing Wednesday." Their bill has the support of "the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers and its members, including General Motors Co., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler Group LLC." It would "create a pilot program in up to six communities across the country to serve as model deployment sites for large-scale installation and operation of ITS to improve safety, mobility and the environment on the nation's highways."