According to Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) (New York), a technical professional association, nearly every traffic accident caused by driver error – up to 90% of all crashes – could be eliminated if existing intelligent transportation technologies were implemented in our vehicles and roads. These include electronics and computing technologies such as in-vehicle machine vision and sensors to detect drowsy drivers, lane departure warning systems, and vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications for safety applications. However, costs of such technologies need to continue to fall so the average consumer can afford these vehicle safety features, says the association.
"Today's advanced embedded systems, sensors, microprocessors and control technologies have made our vehicles and roads significantly safer, but integrating them into our vehicles and roads has been a slow process," says Azim Eskandarian, IEEE member and director of the Center for Intelligent Systems Research at The George Washington University. "However, within 10 years, as technology costs continue to fall and implementation of these technologies increases, we could see significant improvements in vehicle safety, efficiency, and energy conservation – especially in developing parts of the world where high-end cars are not yet affordable by the general public."
According to Eskandarian, other challenges include market acceptance and potential liability concerns surrounding technologies that take total or partial control of the vehicle, such as collision avoidance and driver assistance programs like automatic braking. However, these technologies may follow the path of driver- and passenger-side airbags and anti-lock braking systems (ABS) or electronic stability control (ESC), initially offered as optional features but today considered proven and often standard safety measures in nearly all vehicles.
Teruo Higashino, IEEE Senior Member and professor of information networking at Osaka University in Japan, has recently been focusing on applying wireless networking technology for vehicle-to-vehicle communication to help detect dangerous vehicles on the road – such as a car approaching a blind intersection – and warn nearby drivers, helping dramatically reduce accidents.
President of the IEEE Intelligent Transportation System Society, Alberto Broggi, recently coordinated a successful 13,000 kilometer journey of a driverless van from Italy to China.
"These types of self-driven vehicles will be ready for use in non-urban environments within five to eight years," says Broggi. "The same technology will also apply to agricultural equipment, including self-driven tractors and combines that will maximize land use, increase crop output and decrease injuries."
Another expected benefit of intelligent transportation technologies is reduced fuel consumption and emissions, says IEEE. It is predicted that fuel use and vehicle emissions can be reduced by 20 -30% worldwide over the next five years using environmentally-friendly ITS technology such as "eco-routing." This vehicle GPS system capability will allow drivers to select destination routes according to fuel efficiency, says IEEE.
"Many governments are establishing new emissions and fuel efficiency standards for vehicle manufacturers to meet in the next ten years," says Barth. "The integration of ECO-ITS technologies – such as eco-routing into our vehicles – will be an important evolution in further reducing carbon emissions, achieving greater fuel efficiency, and strengthening energy independence."
"There's much more of a focus on traffic management systems for pedestrian protection in countries in Europe and Asia where cities were traditionally designed around a relatively small and defined city center," says Kyongsu Yi, IEEE member. "In contrast, in the United States where there are more sprawling open spaces, the emphasis is on vehicle safety systems to prevent roll-overs or collisions with other fast-moving vehicles."