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Intelligent Transportation Systems

What are Intelligent Transportation Systems?
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) are technologies introduced in vehicles and roadways that help improve traffic safety and movement. ITS Canada defines Intelligent Transportation Systems as the application of advanced and emerging technologies (computers, sensors, control, communications, and electronic devices) in transportation to save lives, time, money, energy and the environment.

How do ITS technologies work?
ITS devices installed in vehicles, roads, bridges and terminals collect information on road and weather conditions, traffic speed, volume and delays, for example. These systems involve vehicles, drivers, passengers, road operators and managers, all interacting with each other and the environment, and linking with infrastructure systems to improve the safety, competitiveness and capacity of our highway network. The information collected then goes back to road users through a variety of channels – including 511 Alberta, variable message signs and local media – to help drivers stay informed of the road ahead. Look at Figure 1 to the right to see examples of how ITS can be used. These examples do not necessarily represent options being considered by the Government of Alberta.

Figure 1

Next Generation ITS
Over recent years, the emphasis in intelligent vehicle research has turned to Cooperative ITS (C-ITS), in which vehicles communicate with each other, roadside infrastructure and other conventional forms of ITS. The integration of these technologies through wireless communication systems will greatly increase the quality and reliability of information available about vehicles, their location and the road environment. This will bring major social and economic benefits and lead to greater transportation efficiency and increased safety. See Figure 2 below for an illustration of how C-ITS works.

           Figure 2: European FP6 research project SAFESPOT, www.safespot-eu.org

Why are ITS important to Albertans?
Safety – Advanced, on-board vehicle technologies that warn drivers of the road ahead are key in reducing the number and severity of crashes and lowering the number of traffic-related deaths and injuries. ITS also help emergency responders arrive quickly to the scene of a collision.
Enforcement – ITS are a powerful tool in identifying high risk commercial vehicles, and hold benefits such as fewer unnecessary inspections, easier permit and regulation compliance, better enforcement, increased public awareness and improved highway safety for all travellers.
Environmental stewardship – Congestion can reduce quality of life and has environmental costs. The waste of energy in gridlocked traffic and the production of greenhouse gases and other pollutants are harmful to our environment. ITS can help keep traffic moving, thereby reducing fuel consumption and emissions.
Efficiency – ITS enhance mobility for both people and goods, reduce traffic congestion and allow for better, more economical management of transportation infrastructure. This means Albertans can spend less time stuck in traffic and more time on the things, and with the people, that matter to them. It also means increased road infrastructure capacity, and increased productivity and revenue for Alberta’s thriving economy.

Why now?
Now, more than ever, Alberta faces extraordinary challenges and opportunities: economic and population growth, globalization, rapid technological advancements, integrated supply chains, urbanization and climate change, among many others. Alberta’s future success depends on the ability to compete globally and ITS, with their many functions and benefits, are paramount in achieving this.

What does Alberta hope to achieve with ITS technologies?
While the possibilities are endless, Alberta Transportation envisions an effectively managed, well-integrated, universally available and affordable transportation network that provides for the safe, secure, efficient and economical movement of people and goods.

How are ITS already being used in Alberta?
The following are some ITS initiatives currently underway by the Government of Alberta and its partners:

ACTIVE-AURORA (Governments of Alberta and Canada, University of Alberta, University of British Columbia, and City of Edmonton) – Connected Vehicle (CV) systems are a new category of ITS with the potential to transform the way we travel through the creation of a safe, interoperable wireless communication network—a system comprised of cars, buses, trucks, trains, mobile devices, traffic lights, bridges, and other roadside infrastructure all working together to make transportation safer, cleaner, more efficient and secure. The ACTIVE-AURORA partnership project is the first CV test site in Canada. It has received strong support from governments, industry and academia – both nationally and internationally – and, once established, will support continued research, testing, and demonstration of connected transportation system concepts, standards, applications and innovative products. The project will focus on enhancing the safety and movement of people and goods throughout the Asia Pacific Gateway: Edmonton, AB and Vancouver, BC. CVs offer Canada tremendous trade and economic growth opportunities. Learn more or watch informative videos on connected vehicles
Smart Roadside Inspection System – Alberta’s Smart Roadside Inspection System (SRIS) is an electronic management and enforcement system designed to automatically identify high-risk and problematic commercial vehicles from the roadside without interfering with the flow of commerce. Advanced imaging-based inspection systems are integrated with weight and dimension sensors to screen passing commercial motor vehicles (CMV) for safety and security violations. Alberta’s SRIS includes a number of firsts: the first CMV hazardous materials (HazMat) placard system in North America to identify and flag carriers transporting dangerous goods; the first CMV-automated thermal imaging solution integrated into a screening system; and the first to automatically screen and identify high-risk carriers travelling through the province. Learn more
511 Alberta Enhancements511 Alberta provides the province’s official road reports. Interactive maps link to current information on highway conditions, weather information, construction updates, incident reports such as detours and closures, ferry crossing times, national/provincial parks information, and border crossing wait times. Since it launched in February 2013, the 511 Alberta website has received nearly 260 million hits from more than 1.6 million visitors, and the 511 call centre averages nearly 20,000 calls each month. 511 Mobile — an enhanced version of the original site — is now available for viewing on most mobile devices. Travellers checking road reports on their mobile devices now have access to more than 100 highway cameras and a GPS function that, when activated, provides a user’s location on the 511 Alberta map should they need to call for help or report an incident or collision. Learn more
Road Weather Information System - Alberta is one of the leaders in Canada in the use of Road Weather Information System (RWIS). Since 2005, over 100 RWIS stations have been installed on the provincial highway network, with that number continuing to grow. These stations house sensors and cameras that monitor and gather road and weather conditions in real-time. The data is then compiled and analyzed to generate current conditions and forecasts. Road maintenance personnel use this information to plan their winter road maintenance work in a timely manner and to prepare for the next winter storm event. RWIS also distributes real-time road weather information and images from station cameras to the public, via 511Alberta, allowing drivers to plan their trips and travel safely. Alberta Transportation will also integrate RWIS with other ITS technologies, such as dynamic message signs and traffic controls, to provide vital information to a traffic operations/management centre. Learn more


From these examples, it is clear that transportation innovation and technology are integral in meeting future transportation challenges, and that they need to be considered and incorporated in future transportation planning. Innovation and technology integration is a key goal under the province’s long-term transportation strategy and government is committed to enhancing and furthering the use of ITS in Alberta, for the benefit of residents, visitors to our province and the Alberta economy. Learn more

Related ITS links
Transport Canada ITS
Intelligent Transportations Systems Society of Canada
University of Alberta Centre for Smart Transportation
University of Calgary Schulich School of Engineering
ITS International
ITS Europe
ITS Japan
ITS America
U.S. Department of Transportation (Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office)