Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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Legal and Regulatory Issues

Author Jennie Martin (ITS United Kingdom)

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are not deployed in a vacuum but in an environment governed by legal and regulatory frameworks at the local, national, regional and international level. The reach and impact of individual ITS deployments needs to be considered within the context of these frameworks – so that the relevant authorities can put in place appropriate policies and measures to govern the way in which the deployment is managed.

These policies and regulatory measures are made to provide clarity on roles and responsibilities, the legitimacy of ITS deployments, their part in law enforcement and the redress procedures available against fraud, unreliability and misuse.

To ensure trust and public acceptability of ITS deployments in road network operations or transport services – public and private agencies must ensure that their policies address legal and regulatory issues and are seen to be relevant, transparent and robust.

It is comparatively rare for stand-alone legislation or regulations to be introduced in support of specific ITS deployments, although this situation may change in response to new technological challenges such as the automated driverless systems now being developed commercially. Most ITS applications introduced over the last two to three decades have been deployed within existing legal and contractual frameworks that are nevertheless constantly evolving to take account of new developments and practices. Examples include the use of contactless cards for public transport fare payment or electronic tags in drive-through tolling.

Legal and regulatory context

The context for ITS deployment will vary from place to place. It is likely that there will be, as a minimum, regulations covering areas such as road safety, consumer protection, contractual liability and commercial competition. In many countries there will also be a body of law and regulation that specifically addresses transport operations. Whatever the framework, it needs to be taken into account when introducing or extending ITS applications. (See Case Study: EU Secure Lorry Parking)

Legal and regulatory issues associated with ITS deployments are an integral part of any deployment strategy. (See Strategic Planning) This is the case whether the deployment is related to the planning and delivery of transport operations and services or to the market introduction of ITS products, systems and services. Common factors that need to be addressed include:

  • data collection methods, quality, reliability and security
  • data and information ownership, sharing and the protection of privacy
  • integrity of traffic enforcement and payment systems for enforcement of civil offences and contract performance
  • integrity of equipment and data as evidence in a court of law
  • legal liability and redress in relation to ITS products, services and systems in transport operations, vehicle movements and road network management
  • procurement procedures for ITS in relation to competition and contractual policy

In some countries other factors may come into play – such as social, environmental and economic policy objectives and how they impact on transport and mobility.

Generic principles

It is important to consider the legal and regulatory context at the very start of the ITS implementation, preferably after the desired outcomes have been established – and before any decisions have been taken on how to achieve them. This will avoid unnecessary costly and time-consuming work. Some general guidance regarding privacy and liability issues as they affect Road Network Operations are available at: Privacy and Liability

The design and procurement of the ITS implementation is likely to involve internationally binding, formal and informal technical standards in addition to national or international laws, regulations, procedures and practices regarding public sector procurement. (See ITS Standards and Procurement)

The nature of ITS deployments often involves partnership working with a wide range of stakeholders drawn from the public and private sectors. This can raise a number of significant legal, regulatory, organisational and contractual issues that have to be resolved. It is important for the different partners to communicate clearly with one another and establish a common understanding. The effort that this will take should not be underestimated. It is likely to involve liaising with legal experts, government departments, technology specialists, national standards institutes (See ITS Standards), the telecommunications authority, and others.

By way of example, a local authority may decide to try to encourage bus travel by adding a rewards scheme to a smartcard ticket – but if it does this for one bus operator and not for its competitors, it may be challenged under public expenditure regulation or competition law. These types of issues need to be addressed during the planning stage, not when excluded bus operators take legal action against the local authority and the bus operator.

It is quite possible that there will be earlier examples of technology implementations from which lessons of national relevance can be drawn, even if these are not in the ITS area. For instance, established national legal principles of how banks must deal with their customers’ purchase and location records, is of interest when implementing a smartcard public transport ticketing system and considering how to handle resulting customer and trip data.

Localised principles

Once it has been determined where legal issues come into play during an ITS implementation – whether at the beginning, during, or throughout the implementation and its operational life – it is useful to think in terms of a set of questions to address within the national context.

  • Q1. Is there existing legislation or regulations which affect the ITS plans? Are they compatible with the scheme, or does the scheme have to be redesigned, or the legislation amended or augmented? What are the steps needed to establish the latter, if needed? (See  Legal and Regulatory Issues)
  • Q2. Is legislation or regulation needed to enable the ITS implementation to function as well as possible? What are the steps to establish this? (See  Regulatory Framework)
  • Q3. Will the ITS implementation raise issues of liability? (See Liability)
  • Q4. Will data be collected / stored / processed regarding identifiable people or vehicles – and how will this be managed alongside existing data and privacy legislation? (See Privacy)
  • Q5. Will images and data from the ITS implementation be used for enforcement purposes – and will measures need to be taken to meet the requirements of civil or criminal legal processes? (See Law Enforcement)



Reference sources

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