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3. Findings and Recommendations

This report offers a glimpse into the various ITS technologies either available or in the development stage that have the potential to improve safety on the Nation's roads and highways. Consequent to the observations offered in Chapter 2, the scan team believes some significant findings define the state of ITS deployment and its potential contribution to safety in the European Union. In addition, the team has developed 12 recommendations it believes will advance U.S. efforts to achieve greater safety, indicated by fewer crashes and reduced fatalities and injuries. The findings are presented first, followed by the recommendations.

3.1. Findings

Many findings emerged from the scan team's review of the observed technologies during its visits to France, Germany, and Japan. A few of the most salient are presented here. To organize the findings into a logical presentation, the team has divided them into the four standard components of the highway system:

Each of the findings and recommendations is divided into one of these four components, reflecting its role in the overall safety of the highway system.


The driver is a major focus of the safety initiatives in the European Union. Officials recognize that many crashes are caused by driver error, inattention, or poor judgment and believe that significant opportunity exists to better equip drivers with tools and information that will help them operate their vehicles more effectively. EU efforts focus on several areas relating to the driver, including driver assistance and the human-machine interface.

One important element of driver assistance is information. Transportation professionals in the European Union believe that drivers' ability to comprehend complex informational elements in a short time period and render sound decisions is without equal in the technology world. However, they believe a strong need exists to provide more useful information to drivers so they can make these decisions with the best understanding possible. Getting them the right information at the right time is key to the success of the informational element of the EU driver assistance effort.

Not all information is essential to the driver. Some may be used only by an onboard processor as background information contributing to the relevance of more important information. Transportation professionals are developing a growing appreciation that the driving task is very complex; thus, a goal of some research is to reduce "driver burden." Driver burden is a condition that describes the point at which information starts to distract from the driver's task. Too much information at the wrong time isn't useful — just as dated or old information is of no value in improving safety. Proximity is also an issue. Once the vehicle is past a certain location, information about that location may become irrelevant to the operator. In the European Union, creating information systems that recognize both timing and accuracy is the objective of public and private sectors alike.

Another significant variable in creating the driver assistance environment is the diversity of age and ability of the population of vehicle operators. Information systems and data processors must recognize these demographic differences and adjust accordingly, even if a different driver gets behind the wheel of a vehicle just operated by another driver. In the end, human factors initiatives go beyond developing systems designed for the "ideal driver." The research the team observed focused on the "average driver," who may be distracted, fatigued, prone to mistakes, or unable to evaluate speed and distance inputs properly.

Another important aspect of driver safety concerns the balance between technology that assists the driver with inputs in the decisionmaking process and the basic responsibility all drivers have to operate their vehicles properly and safely. Ultimately, there is no technological replacement for the human mind and its ability to process complex inputs, render judgment, and take appropriate action. Technology can, however, improve the driver's ability to make good and safe decisions.

The team came away from its visit with a strong sense of the importance of the human factors element in ensuring that the driver integrates well with the other three elements of the highway system highlighted in this chapter. Industry is spending considerable time trying to understand driver behavior in crash and noncrash situations to better determine the nature of this integration and improve on it to promote safety. Ultimately, it is imperative that the driver, vehicle, environment, and policy elements work in a harmonious way. This is sometimes referred to as "cooperative driving."

Finally, there appears to be no substitute for compliance with traffic laws and regulations in advancing safety. This is particularly true for speed enforcement. Measurable safety improvements are clear when speed is managed and/or regulated in a proactive manner. The efforts in Germany and France will reduce the numbers of fatalities, crashes, and injuries as speed is regulated more carefully and enforcement activities are increased.


The vehicle has been the focus of many safety improvements over the years, including seatbelts and airbags. These passive systems have netted substantial benefits to the public and have clearly resulted in reduced injuries and fatalities. The scan team believes that the safety benefits of these passive systems likely are nearing a maximum, and that in the future more emphasis should be placed on active systems that will further reduce the adverse effects of crashes on the Nation's highways. One noteworthy active system is electronic stability control. The evidence is clear that the presence and functionality of such systems reduces crashes, injuries, and fatalities. Other active systems, such as adaptive cruise control, assisted braking, and lane keeping, will also help achieve the desired safety improvements envisioned by this scan effort.

Integrating the vehicle with its surrounding environment will be essential to advancing a number of the team's recommendations. Onboard navigation systems can provide some safety benefit, especially when integrated with digital mapping and other features. However, the current processing ability of these onboard navigation devices is not adequate to handle the significant processing duties envisioned when analyzing video images and other very taxing tasks must be accomplished. Thus, a different type of device will have to find substantial penetration in the market to achieve the results envisioned with some of the systems the team observed. There is a need to proliferate processing devices that can send, receive, analyze, and output information in real-time fashion. Further, adding traffic control information and warning features to this system will provide drivers with critical information affecting the driving task. These systems need to be low cost to achieve the market penetration that will result in the safety improvements envisioned.


The findings relating to the environment component of ITS safety systems are many and varied. They include a substantial finding that controlling speed through effective management and enforcement strategies appears to result in very real reductions in crashes, fatalities, and injuries. Operating facilities with more uniform speed patterns and slightly reduced speeds are obviously assisting France in its quest for safer highways. While the team members understood the importance of speed management before the scanning study, they are now even more convinced that some of the greatest safety gains can be achieved by managing this critical safety variable. A voluntary system resulting in no citations could achieve some level of benefit, but a more aggressive photo-enforcement process would bring substantive realization of the objectives of this scan.

The need to further integrate the environment and its infrastructure elements with the vehicle is obvious. An infrastructure that includes "smart" components, such as chips on signs and signals that offer two-way communication capabilities (between vehicle and infrastructure), is just part of this enhanced environment for the driver and the vehicle. Many safety benefits will accrue with vehicle-to-environment communications in place that enhance the driver's ability to anticipate road geometrics and react to traffic control situations, and otherwise improve the atmosphere in which the driver makes key decisions.

This integration is obviously a long-term initiative, but one that must be advanced. In fact, realization of this goal is many years away. However, an intermediate step would be to equip the vehicle with the ability to recognize infrastructure features such as traffic signals and signs. This step will bridge this technology gap until penetration of smart features is sufficiently thorough to result in the desired safety benefits. Developing standards that many manufacturers can follow and that drivers can become accustomed to will go a long way toward improving the penetration of technologies in the transportation market.

Complementary to this finding is another that sees the need to integrate, certify, and maintain detailed location codes, speed limits, and other critical information on digital maps that interact dynamically with the vehicle's onboard processor. This ability to gather information from the environment and incorporate it with other information relating to crash history, weather conditions, and other factors will further enhance drivers' abilities to safely operate their vehicles.


While many findings can be articulated within the policy component, the team has singled out several for this report. The first is the obvious relationship between political and organizational leadership and the advancement of ITS technologies that will produce substantive safety improvements. Much of what is being advanced in the countries visited is the result of such leadership that crosses all boundaries in the transportation industry. The results of France's automated speed enforcement program are clear: reduced crashes and resultant fatalities and injuries. This came about only when national and local leaders made safety a major initiative of their political leadership and held governmental agencies accountable for achieving the stated safety objectives.

Public agencies and private-sector organizations in the European Union have a strong sense of collaboration. This cooperation exists in areas such as funding, research, joint public-private working groups focused on specific issues, information protocols, and others. A compelling case can be made that leadership is the key to advancing complex policy issues such as speed enforcement and management.

Many factors contribute to safety on U.S. highways. They include governmental agencies, vehicle manufacturers, systems developers, and others. It is critical to find the proper balance of obligations among the car manufacturer, road authority, and systems providers of technology on who supplies what information to the driver and in what format. Much needs to be organized and structured so that ITS technologies can be deployed in the most efficient manner possible.

Liability is a key concern of the private sector that reduces its ability to deploy technologies proven in research studies that could be made widely available. The European community is developing a Code of Practice to set standards of performance and a "duty of care" that it hopes will address the liability issues faced with the deployment of these advanced technologies. Development of a similar U.S. code of practice would open the door to many ITS applications in use elsewhere in the world but not yet deployed in the United States.

3.2. Recommendations

The scan team developed 12 recommendations to achieve the objectives of this scanning study. Like the findings, they are divided into four elements — driver, vehicle, environment, and policy. The implementation plan in Chapter 4 addresses how the team will advance these recommendations.


The two recommendations for the driver element are as follows:

  1. Identify stakeholders and interest groups and advance their collaborative efforts to raise awareness of the driver's needs. This recommendation will help public and private organizations identify key driver inputs, establish human-machine interface communication protocols, and promote an optimal decisionmaking environment for safe vehicle operation.
  2. Advance the use of technology, driver education, insurance incentives, and other means to promote greater speed compliance and management. The scan team believes a concerted effort that covers all members of the transportation community focused on speed management and enforcement will bring landmark benefits to system users in the form of reduced crashes and their collateral effects.

The team's two recommendations on the vehicle element are as follows:

  1. Promote the aggressive implementation of low-cost, onboard processing devices in U.S. automobiles that will communicate with infrastructure features and receive information from other sources. The future use of onboard processing devices appears to be central to deploying many of the ITS technologies observed during the scanning study. The ability to achieve significant penetration will be governed by the strength of the partnership achieved between the private sector and public agencies that provide transportation services.
  2. Promote and collaborate on the development of technology focused on driver assistance (e.g., adaptive cruise control, lane keeping, assisted braking, etc.). Active systems that provide assistance to the driver must be incorporated into new vehicles as rapidly as the technologies will permit. This pace may be determined by how quickly Recommendations 3 and 4 are completed. The same benefits now offered by electronic stabilization systems will begin to accrue from these other technologies as fast as they can be deployed.

To achieve substantial benefits in safety improvement on the Nation's highways, the team recommends the following in the environment element:

  1. Promote additional testing and implementation of photo enforcement of speed. Implement a program of photo speed radar with a noncitation strategy to help curb aggressive driving and address speed variability on the Nation's roadways. In conjunction with Recommendation 2, the team further recommends a strategy that focuses on voluntary efforts to curb excess speed as an intermediate measure leading to full enforcement of speed on U.S. highways. This would not replace a more aggressive effort to manage and enforce speed limits.
  2. Promote the accelerated development and deployment of systems that facilitate communication between the infrastructure and the vehicle. The public and private sectors must unite to establish architecture, communication protocols, and other standards to facilitate this communication. Included must be the deployment of chips and other technology devices on infrastructure features and the development of onboard systems to process these inputs.
  3. Promote the further use of changeable/dynamic graphical signs (international standards). The need to communicate information to drivers through static and changeable message signs continues to grow. Text messages are limited in their ability to communicate pertinent information in any volume, given the travel speed of most vehicles. The increased use of graphical signs using international standards will achieve a higher and more effective level of communication.
  4. Integrate/certify/maintain detailed location codes, speed limits, and other critical infrastructure features on digital maps. Further integrate this information with onboard vehicle technology. The scan team recognizes the importance of bringing information from many sources to the onboard processor. Much of this information is static and, once digitized, can easily be input to multiple devices and platforms.
  5. Develop and deploy technology that uses existing information gathered to provide real-time notice of incidents. Process data collected in traffic operations centers to react to emergencies. A large volume of information is available to transportation agencies and operating systems that relate to the driver, vehicle, and environment. The ability to synthesize this information, manage its use, and communicate it to emergency responders is critical to the safe operation of roads and highways.
  6. Promote the use of operations data in planning future improvements to the infrastructure. In conjunction with the information gathered and processed in executing Recommendation 9, there is a need to take this robust data set and create an environment of enhanced asset management that will benefit both the public and private sectors.

The scan team made two recommendations relating to policy:

  1. Create a national highway safety program leadership initiative focusing on safety applications of ITS technologies. Leadership is an essential component of observed advances in the deployment of ITS technologies. The scan team recommends that key individual and organizational leaders be identified, and that an era of new and stronger leadership emerge to launch these ITS initiatives for greater highway safety.
  2. Create a warehouse for standardizing, gathering, managing, and analyzing before-and-after performance data relating to safety applications of ITS technologies. More information is gathered today than is being used productively by public and private entities. Even more will be collected when new technologies are deployed. A significant need exists to create the systems and structures necessary to effectively manage the volumes of data and information that will be characteristic of these ITS initiatives and address the inherent legal issues that will emerge from this effort. There is no question that these recommendations are ambitious. The scan team believes that their fulfillment will be essential to achieving the paramount objective of this scan and that of all transportation professionals: improve the safety of the Nation's transportation system.

An implementation team (IT) was established from among the members of the scan team. This subgroup was charged with developing strategies to achieve the recommendations contained in this chapter. These strategies are in Chapter 4.

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Page last modified on November 7, 2014
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