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

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Applying Standards

The process of implementing standards within a road network operation must be approached systematically:

Step 1 – Identify – where standards should be used. It is preferable to use standardised systems wherever possible – but it may not be feasible to standardise every aspect of every system, for a variety of practical reasons such as cost, availability of appropriate solutions,

Step 2 – Determine – whether appropriate standards and examples of practice already exist. Standards development is expensive – and substantial efficiencies may be gained by learning from existing practice,

Step 3 – Assess – vendor offerings to determine standards compliance.

Identifying needs

System architecture can be used to identify where standards are needed – now and in the future. System architecture is a conceptual framework that shows how different components in a system should fit together. It also shows the key processes which require a standardised interface – especially for communications and data exchange. The figure below illustrates this.

The ITS architecture provides the context for standards development by defining the different subsystems and the data that has to flow between them. The architecture can also help identify whether the various standards should be local, regional, national, or international. This will depend on the relevant interfaces and an analysis of operational needs, user requirements and hardware/software specifications. (See ITS Architecture)

Sample standards architecture (AustRoads)

Locating standards and seeking help

Once the need for a standard has been identified, it is important to determine whether such a standard already exists or must be developed. Many ITS standards have already been written – and additional standards development is underway in a broad range of organisations worldwide. Research of existing standards work identifies existing standards and standards in the making. The websites of the major standards organisations provide an initial set of sources to investigate. (See Standards Organisations)

Many major standards have significant user communities that can assist new users. The relevant national or regional ITS organisation will have suitable contacts. Practitioners who have already implemented ITS standards in the field are often happy to share valuable lessons learned. Many standards development organisations have resources to help connect new users to sources of help and standards training.

The standards required may not exist. If this is the case, it is important to assess the costs and benefits of embarking on a standards development exercise with the appropriate standards development body. For a rapidly developing field such as ITS, the timing of standard setting is particularly important. Premature standards setting risk stiffling innovation.

Once standards are established, consideration needs to be given to how existing systems can migrate to the new standards over a reasonable period of time. Users who have already invested in systems are reluctant to switch to new standards before they have achieved a reasonable return on their investment. Public and private organisations need to work together to promote standards that:

  • benefit ITS products and services for the users
  • reduce prices
  • help deliver an integrated transport system that appears seamless to the traveller

Testing and Certification

It is important to recognise that products and services developed to the same standard – by different manufacturers and vendors – are not automatically guaranteed to work together properly. Interoperability failures can arise from unclear standards documentation, multiple options within a standard, or partial, rather than complete standards conformity.

European Interoperability

One example of the interoperability challenge is the attempt to demonstrate a single vehicle’s interaction with two different European cooperative system field trials – FOTsis ( and DRIVE C2X ( Both prototypes were designed to be fully standards compliant – but in practice, testing showed that they were not sufficiently interoperable to allow a joint demonstration.

(See Diamandouros, K, et al., FOTSIS - European Field Operational Test on Safe, Intelligent and Sustainable Road Operation, IRF 17th World Meeting, 1 July 2013).

To avoid interoperability failures, it is critical to test standards by building prototypes – and to test finished products to see if they are truly interoperable. Some major standards bodies – such as the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) – have programmes to do this. It is also often the case that independent companies take on this role. These procedures certify products as fully compliant with the standards cited. (See Equipment Certification)

It is important to investigate the level of standards conformity provided by a product to ensure that it will work properly with other products within the same system. In some cases, regulations may be put in place to require interoperability and standards compliance.

Advice to Practitioners

A number of important ITS standards are, and will probably continue to be, uncertain moving targets. This makes planning for ITS standards adoption and application rather tricky. Questions arise, such as:
  • how do I begin an ITS deployment when different vendors offer products of different standards – none of which have been widely adopted?
  • should I postpone an ITS deployment indefinitely until consensus standards are firmly established? If so – do I miss out on the benefits of early ITS applications, that are badly needed?

There are no definite answers to these questions, but it may help to:

  • develop a plan, don’t let it happen by default – plan a clear strategy that enables you to be proactive and to make informed decisions on new standards
  • review the current status of ITS standards development – review standards development activities at all levels – and understand the background behind conflicting standards in case you have to choose between them
  • use your ITS Architecture, if one exists, to identify the need for standards – identify critical interfaces in the architecture to help prioritise the importance of standards
  • consider the implications of applying existing standards – assess the costs and availability of products and services that meet your goals
  • define an action plan for developing or migrating to standards of importance to you – get involved in the standard development process
  • if no standards exist, develop your own regional technology cooperation agreements – consider collaboration with relevant agencies to help you to get services started
  • set up a mechanism for progressing ad-hoc standards to regional, national, or international level as required – establish a mechanism for cooperating with others involved in ITS deployments, to develop and agree more widely accepted standards
  • define and establish testing and certification procedures – incorporate these formal procedures in procurement documentation to ensure that suppliers understand how the deliverables will be tested to assess compliance with the standard

Issues for Developing Countries

Developing countries that are building entirely new infrastructure have a significant advantage with respect to standards. Planners are in a position to design-in the use of standards at the outset – based on the most mature specifications available worldwide. There is no escape from the pace of technology evolution – so it is important to recognise that standards need to be implemented in a way that supports their update over time.

There may be a gap in national expertise on new and evolving standards – and existing standards may not fully support local needs. Involvement in the international standards development process can help address both these issues – but it requires on-going resourcing that may not be available. It is essential to ensure access to useful resources that can help:

  • determine appropriate standards
  • draft procurement documents effectively – specifying the standards
  • guide local agencies through the details of deployment

Further information

The websites for the major standards organisations are usually the best place to start for further information.

The Japan Society of Automotive Engineers (JSAE) publishes an annual report on current work in the International Standards Organisation’s ITS Technical Committee (ISO TC204). The 2014 report is available for download at

The JSAE website provides a listing of world standards organisations and their websites (See


Reference sources

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