Road Network Operations
& Intelligent Transport Systems
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ITS Standards

Author Valerie Shuman (Schuman Consulting Group, USA)

Standards have an important part to play in Road Network Operations. They are firm specifications and requirements. They ensure that systems and equipment are interoperable (sometimes with interchangeable components) – even when they are from competing vendors. A good understanding of the different types of ITS standards and their current stage of development is necessary to develop a robust ITS deployment strategy. The use of accepted standards for communications protocols and data message sets is essential, for example, when setting up data exchange arrangements between road network operators and related service providers– such as traffic management centres and traffic information providers. The standards ensure that information is correctly received and interpreted by the different software systems. (See Data Communications)

Major ITS standardisation programmes are underway in Europe, the US and Japan to address the growing need for ITS standards. They are negotiated through international standards organisations. (See Standards Organisations) These bodies have produced a broad range of standards – from traveller information to vehicle safety systems. Many standards emerge from ITS development activities - providing the basis for widespread deployment and support activities. Prototype development and field-testing help ensure that standards are fit for purpose and ready for adoption. In some cases, standards are mature enough for their use to be mandated by governments – to accelerate the deployment of ITS systems to improve mobility, safety and efficiency.

The goal of global harmonisation around standards for some ITS applications – such as satellite navigation and cooperative vehicle systems – has gained increasing support from governments and industry. A number of governments now formally coordinate their positions on standards, whilst the automotive industry has come together with digital map suppliers and mobile telecommunications and internet companies – to address the challenges of the more fast-moving technologies, such as smartphone-vehicle integration.

Changes in consumer expectations – and technical developments – create the need for standards to enable new ITS applications to be developed and deployed. Growing levels of vehicle connectivity and a focus on sustainability and “green ITS” provide opportunities for optimising transport networks. For instance, data obtained through crowd-sourcing and vehicle probes can be used by network operators and in user applications, to inform drivers about road and traffic conditions and alternative routing.

Connected vehicles demand new technical solutions, supported by standards, to ensure fast, reliable V2X communications in safety-critical situations.

Definition of V2X

V2X covers both Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) telecommunications. (See Connected Vehicle Technology)

Automated vehicles rely on well-understood human interfaces and applications that can be certified as safe and reliable to operate on public highways. As transport solutions take advantage of the opportunities provided by the “Internet of Things”, more information interfaces must be managed. Examples include consumer devices such as smartphones, which interface with vehicle display systems and connect with transport information providers. (See En-route Information)

The growing body of ITS standards is a valuable resource for the increasing number of organisations deploying ITS. A review of emerging standards can also provide an insight into new industry and technology developments and trends. Standardisation may relate to some or all of a technical specification and the operational guidelines.

ITS standards will continue to evolve quickly to keep pace with new technologies and applications emerging from within and outside the transport community.

Motivation for Standards

The motivation for standard setting varies. It includes securing better safety, reducing costs, and market enhancement of products. For example, for safety reasons, a driver should not be faced with complicated in-vehicle route guidance functions whilst the car is moving. To prevent this, a standard governing vehicle displays is needed to ensure a good user interface with the driver which is not distracting or confusing. (See Design of ITS for Vehicles)

For both public and private organisations involved in procuring ITS equipment, there are compelling reasons for adopting voluntary standards wherever possible:

  • where ITS products and services have been designed using established standards, users can source a range of competitive suppliers before deciding on their purchasing options. This avoids lock-in to a single supplier and ensures that standardised components are interchangeable
  • ITS standards support system interoperability and integration. For example, a vehicle using a single transponder can access a range of ITS user services based on standardised equipment and communications – such as toll payments, in-car signage and international border crossings

The perspective of suppliers is less clear-cut. Depending on their market position, private companies may – or may not – be motivated to participate in standards setting by consensus. Common standards can lead to economies of scale in production – and open up sales to a wider market. Companies in dominant market positions are usually reluctant to move away from the de-facto standards of their own products – unless they are convinced that the establishment of new consensus standards would help them access a much larger market.

In general, private companies whose business is globally oriented, are interested in consensus standards and global agreement on standards – to secure economies of scale in manufacturing and marketing their products. These standards also reduce their risk of investing in new products and services that may have limited market potential – or could soon become obsolete.


Reference sources

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