Reston office intern Jennifer Palacios shares her experience at the ITS America Conference

June 14, 2012

My first day as an intern at Kittelson & Associates, Inc. in the Reston office proved to be an exciting one, as I had the opportunity to attend the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) America Conference in National Harbor, Maryland on May 21, 2012. The ITS America Conference is a great forum for attendees and exhibitors to learn about new and developing technologies in transportation. At the conference, I was able to explore a broad overview of what ITS have to offer the transportation industry. A few of the projects I learned about included vehicle control systems, real-time traffic applications, and the daunting task of coordinating traffic signal timing in New York City.

I spoke to a representative of Tyco Traffic and Transportation, one of several companies at the conference focused on vehicle control systems. In the past, the best way to guarantee the safe delivery of goods by truck was to have an unmarked escort follow the truck along its route. However, this method is expensive and is considered burdensome by the shipper. A representative from Tyco described an ITS alternative to truck escorts. Tyco offers a service that tracks the vehicle with GPS and allows the shipper to shut down the vehicle when an unauthorized route or a prolonged stop is detected. The system requires driver authentication before a vehicle can be started. The system also requires authentication from a guard before a vehicle can enter a secure facility such as a nuclear power plant. These security features allow a company to essentially escort the truck from the comfort of their own office.

Another exciting ITS application is the ability to access real-time traffic on a smartphone. INRIX is one of the leading providers of traffic information and analysis and collects much of its data from smartphone applications. INRIX allows users to download traffic applications free of charge to their smartphones in exchange for providing location information. The INRIX applications use smartphone location data, as well as Bluetooth data in some cases, to create real-time traffic maps. The user can then access this information directly on his or her phone. Where there is missing data, INRIX fills in the gaps by using historical traffic counts to create more complete traffic maps. The traffic applications have most major roads and many local roads, which make it easy to assess traffic conditions along different routes and choose the best alternative when traveling.

ITS America had several booths from private consultants such as KLD Associates, Inc., which showcased its work related to traffic signal timing improvement. The representative from KLD described some of the challenges that needed to be overcome while designing the revised signal timing plans for Manhattan. Congestion in Manhattan is unavoidable, but the project’s goals were to minimize gridlock and to enable vehicles to get into and out of the city more easily. KLD has a second project in the less congested borough of Staten Island that focuses on minimizing travel time. Another aspect of KLD’s practice that I found interesting was their specialization in evacuation modeling. This allows public agencies to improve their emergency preparedness and enhances effectiveness of evacuation should the need arise.

Vehicle control systems, real-time traffic applications, and improved traffic signal timing were just a few of the numerous projects, products, technologies, and services on display at the ITS America Conference. I was amazed at how far transportation has come and excited to learn about its future. As an intern who is getting her first exposure to the transportation profession, it was a great introduction to ITS. I even got to meet Elvis live in the flesh – or at least one of his many impersonators! I am looking forward to the summer ahead and excited to gain some real world experience with ITS.

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