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

You are here

Users of ITS

Understanding who uses ITS and how it influences their behaviour provides a wealth of information which can be harnessed to improve the design, implementation and operation of ITS applications. Users are human and humans make mistakes! Some are quickly realised and may be corrected. There are also errors that may have wider consequences and safety implications.

Everyone is different. Some differences between people are innate and last a lifetime, some may come and go, and some may develop slowly over time. It is well known that physical characteristics such as strength and reaction time vary between individuals – but human behaviour in engaging with increasingly technological transport systems also depends on an individual’s information processing capacity. How users perform in their interaction with ITS will vary considerably. An individual’s performance will also vary over time depending on a complex interplay of factors.

Interaction between users is also an important issue. “User Groups” may help to distinguish users of ITS who have certain characteristics or factors in common – but still include a diverse range of individuals. An analysis of how individuals behave when interacting with other individuals, and how they behave as a group, provides useful insights which can help shape the policies adopted for Road Network Operations.


Stakeholders in the successful implementation of ITS-based systems and services include the Road Operators (ROs), their providers of technology and related services, and national and local government. The users themselves can be categorised in a number of ways – a basic one being:

  • drivers
  • vulnerable road users
  • road operator employees
  • other travellers;
  • specialist users (such as vehicle fleet managers)

These stakeholders, although not completely distinct, can be further disaggregated. Drivers, for example, can be categorised in many ways, according to:

  • characteristics (such as age, driving experience, personality type)
  • type of vehicle being driven
  • journey purpose (such as working, non-working, leisure, goods delivery)

Vulnerable Road Users (VRU) (See Road Safety) may include:

  • older persons and persons with disabilities (typically as pedestrians and public transport users, although they may use other modes of transport)
  • pedestrians (all ages)
  • cyclists including users of electric cycles
  • powered two wheelers– including mopeds, scooters, motorcycles and other powered light road vehicles.
  • the young/inexperienced car driver
  • the older car driver

Road operator employees will include:

  • control room operatives
  • road workers (such as those involved in construction, maintenance, patrols and operations)

Role of the Road Network Operator

Responsibility for Road Users

National and regional road authorities and those responsible for operations – the 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 to adopt safe practices in the use of the roads. By taking account of human motivation and decision making, Road Operators are better placed to understand how people behave both individually and in groups – and how best to influence that behaviour in order to manage the road network.

In terms of ITS, 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.

Responsibility for own workers

The Road Operator is responsible for the work and conduct of their staff and this includes responsibility for any ITS they may use as part of their jobs.

The Road Operator needs to understand the tasks to be performed by its workers – and to appreciate the scope and consequences of user errors and how these can be avoided or their consequences mitigated

The Road Operator should consider the role of education and training for its workers. Education allows individuals to form mental models of why and how things work and may improve performance by reducing errors and increasing motivation. Performance generally benefits from training although “overtraining” and complacency/boredom may become a negative factor in some cases

Institutional Issues

Design for all

Many countries have legislation concerning how disadvantaged users or those with special needs should be taken into account. Consideration has to be given to design of ITS for all types of users given the importance of creating an open and useable road transport system for all. Road Operators should ensure that ITS is designed to accommodate the full range of users wherever possible. If not, an assessment needs to be made about how those not provided for will be affected and whether the consequences are acceptable. If not, an entirely different solution may be needed.

These “design for all” considerations may conflict with economic or operational efficiencies. Depending on ownership and governance structures, the Road Operator may be subject to purchasing constraints (for example having to use a particular supplier) and this may limit the design choices for ITS.

Employer Responsibilities

As an employer of, for example, control room staff and road workers, a Road Operator will probably have statutory duties towards their workers in areas such as health and safety practices and the safe use of ITS.

Safe Use of ITS

ITS can provide much helpful information and assistance to drivers and other road users. It can also pose potential problems. Diverting attention to in-vehicle information and communication systems can detract from driving performance and decision making. This has led to some countries enacting protective legislation such as banning the use of hand-held mobile phones and texting whilst driving. The Road Operator may need to take account of this in the ITS systems provided to their workers and in their operating practices. They may also be made responsible for enforcing national laws on its roads.

Issues for Developing Economies

The HMI principles described here are designed for Road Operators to apply in all countries. However, the application in developing economies may need to be tailored to the specific context. Some specific points to take in to consideration are provided below.

Characteristics of Users

Developing economies may have a greater diversity of users, particularly in terms of educational provision. For example, the literacy level or level of familiarity with technology cannot be assumed to be the same as in developed economies and multiple languages may need to be taken into account.

Context of Use

The road environment and the balance of user groups varies considerably from country to country – for example, there may be a greater amount of animal transport, pedestrians and cyclists (vulnerable road users) and fewer drivers of motor vehicles. The mix of vehicles driven or ridden transport may be very different from that typically used in a developed economy, often with a greater proportion of powered two-wheelers (PTWs). Similarly, the infrastructure – for example, traffic control, may be less developed, particularly in rural areas.

Legal and Cultural Norms

Countries have different laws, but developing economies may be less advanced in terms of safety requirements and enforcement (for example concerning traffic offences and the use of mobile phones while driving). With different social and cultural background, the norms of behaviour by road users and their attitudes towards the rules of the road may deviate widely from safe practice. The extent to which economic forces and peer pressure drives behaviour may need special attention in modelling user behaviour.

Technology Development

The degree of investment in ITS technology and services, its reliability and that of its powered energy and communications may be more variable than in developed economies. Lack of reliability is likely to affect deployment of ITS and the behaviour of users. Developing economies may not have access to trained human factors professionals to advise Road Operators in aspects of user behaviour. (See Building ITS Capacity)


Reference sources

No reference sources found.