Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
A guide for practitioners!

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Engagement with ITS

When users of ITS have a choice they choose to engage and adopt new technology based on a number of factors:

  • relative advantage
  • compatibility
  • complexity/simplicity
  • trial-ability
  • observe-ability

Users interact with Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) using senses such as sight, hearing and touch. For example – for an ITS-based Variable Message Sign, to be effective, it has to be visible and the message readable/recognisable.

User engagement with ITS and the various types of services that ITS provides, is of special importance to the suppliers of ITS to Road Network Operators – and to the road users themselves, either indirectly or directly. These include:

  • providers of ITS hardware and services as Tier 1 suppliers to vehicle Original Equipment Manufacturers
  • suppliers to RNOs of ITS for “back-office” services – such as computers, control room displays
  • suppliers to RNOs of roadside ITS with user interfaces – such as variable message signs, other dynamic signage, protection and warning equipment for road workers
  • suppliers to road users – for example Smartphone App providers, where there is a dynamic and competitive market to attract users

The design of the HMI for ITS technology, in terms of how it affects the dialogue with the user (the software for example) is very important to promote ease of use. For an interactive device, important dialogue issues include: length of “timeouts”, language used and menu structure.

The context of use is an important consideration when designing how users interact with ITS. An ITS device should not be described as “useable” or “ergonomic” without also describing the context in which that use takes place.

Users engage with ITS to obtain different services – such as information, warnings or assistance/automation. The human factors issues associated with these different “levels” of interaction are very different and they may have safety implications. Appreciating the key differences and understanding these issues can help the road network operator to purchase, design and implement appropriate ITS.

Role of the Road Operator

Responsibility for Safety in ITS Interaction

Road Operators have a duty of care to the users of their road networks. Whilst people are individuals and will make their own decisions, they can be encouraged and enabled through ITS to adopt safe practices in the use of the roads. In terms of ITS information provision, the Road Operator should ensure that the information provided is as clear and correct as possible – and that the ITS provided is safe, well maintained and fit for purpose so that it can be easily used.

Particular attention should be given to safety-critical tasks. The Road Operator may wish to introduce driving restrictions in some contexts where there is a particular risk. Examples might relate to health and safety considerations such as:

  • restricting road access during extreme cold conditions
  • reducing speed limits in poor visibility
  • cancelling maintenance activities during extreme weather
  • restricting noise exposure of road workers

Responsibility for Own Workers

The Road Operator has responsibility for the work and conduct of its staff and this will include responsibility for any ITS they may use as part of their jobs. Choice of HMI is a specialist area, and advice from human factors professionals is recommended

The Road Operator should be mindful of human factors when designing or procuring ITS. How ITS services are implemented determines how easily they can be used. This influences user acceptance and adoption – as well as adaptation of behaviour and overall safety.

Institutional Issues

The introduction of new technology, such as ITS, tends to allow not only more efficient ways of undertaking tasks – but completely new ways of working. For example, the availability of real-time travel information on a personal hand-held device changes information needs – and relationships between the user and the providers of transport services. Information services may also pose challenges of security and privacy when individual data is stored and processed as part of the ITS. (See Legal and Regulatory Issues)

Safe Use of ITS

New HMI may lead to the development of national and international laws and vehicle regulations. New technology that has emerged in recent years includes Bluetooth headsets for mobile phones and head-up displays within vehicles.


Automation, especially of road vehicles, is likely to involve institutional issues. There may be some public distrust of automation, particularly around road safety and potential job losses (for example, automated truck platoons may require fewer drivers). Automated driving may require the development of national and international laws and vehicle regulations. (See Automated Highways)


Reference sources

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