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What is a smart transportation system (STS)?

Smart transportation and smart city traffic management are having a major impact on how cities approach their transportation networks and the way that people travel around a city.

Using technology, including Internet of Things (IoT) powered sensors, advanced communication technologies, automation, high-speed networks, and big data analytics, cities can control and manage the way that people navigate from one place to another.

Smart transportation systems, sometimes referred to as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), utilise the power of the IoT, helping to contribute to the growth of smart cities around the world, and forming an integral part of the smart transportation movement.

What is smart transportation?

Smart transportation includes the use of several technologies, from basic management systems such as car navigation; traffic signal control systems; container management systems; automatic number plate recognition to speed cameras to monitoring applications, extending to more advanced applications that integrate live data and feedback from multiple external sources.

We have written widely about smart transportation and you can learn more about what smart transportation is in a recent post.

What makes transportation smart?

According to three mobility experts interviewed at the New York Smart Cities event in 2019, there are three themes that make up smart transportation:

1.      Infrastructure

Here at NEC, we work with Transit Agencies and Public Transport Operators to provide effective, data-driven tools for fleet and vehicle planning, helping to contribute to the overall effectiveness of transportation infrastructures.

2.      Sharing

One of the main reasons why sharing is at the heart of Smart Transportation is accessibility. Sharing opens the possibility for anyone, from all walks of life and across the social spectrum, to ride whenever they wish.

3.      Governments

Governments must facilitate this shift towards on-demand and app-based mobility by putting in place the infrastructure to support the transport model.

Read more about what it is exactly that makes transportation smart.

What is a smart transportation system?

Mobility is a major concern for any city. As urban populations continue to grow, the number of people trying to get from A to B in and around cities is also growing at a pace that cannot be sustained under current transportation systems.

From getting to school, college, or the office, to the increasing demand on transport networks from travellers post-COVID, smart transportation systems can help to save time, reduce congestion, and improve the overall quality of life for citizens in smart cities.

An STS aims to achieve traffic efficiency, helping to minimise traffic problems whilst providing real-time, up-to-date information to passengers and travellers across multiple modes of transport within a city.

By providing travellers with accurate information about expected journey times, the number of free parking spaces, seat availability and real-time running information, commuters spend less time waiting for public transport whilst also reducing travel times.

As well as helping to improve the overall mobility of a smart city, an intelligent transportation system also helps to improve the overall safety of the transport network, helping to reduce the “human factor” in accidents. This is especially true where autonomous transportation systems are in place, and as we move forward, autonomous vehicles on the roads will also play an integral part in intelligent transportation systems.

How does a smart transportation system work?

According to a report commissioned by Genesee County, “Shaping our transportation future together”, they identified 16 types of technology-based systems that make up an intelligent transportation system. These are divided into two separate areas: intelligent infrastructure systems and intelligent vehicle systems.

Intelligent infrastructure systems

  • Arterial Management
  • Freeway Management
  • Transit Management
  • Incident Management
  • Emergency Management
  • Electronic Payment and Pricing
  • Traveller Information
  • Information Management
  • Crash Prevention and Safety
  • Roadway Operations and Maintenance
  • Road Weather Management
  • Commercial Vehicle Operations
  • Intermodal Freight

Intelligent vehicle systems

  • Collision Avoidance Systems
  • Driver Assistance Systems
  • Collision Notification Systems

Together, these technologies comprise an intelligent transport system, helping to improve travel conditions and improve the overall ‘liveability’ of a city.

The technologies listed above are used to collect, transmit, analyse and relay critical information across the transport network, bringing a wide range of benefits to cities that deploy a smart transportation system.

Data Collection

Within a smart transportation system, data is collected via varied hardware devices that allow for real-time analysis. Data is collected from devices such as automatic vehicle identifiers, GPS-based vehicle locators, sensors, and cameras. The information collected, which typically relates to locations, travel speed, travel time etc is then relayed to a data collection centre where the data is stored and made available for further analysis.

Data Transmission

The speed at which data can be collected and transmitted is the key to the effective deployment of smart transportation systems. The data needs to be transmitted and analysed in real-time so that the analysed data can be sent out to travellers across the transportation network through SMS, apps, or onboard units in vehicles.

Data Analysis

Data analysis is carried out at traffic management centres once it has been collected and increasingly, this is being carried out using Artificial Intelligence (AI) which is capable of processing huge amounts of data quickly. The data that is collected is cleansed and synthesised to identify inconsistencies and once the analysis is complete, that data is then delivered to travellers and staff within the transport network.

Passenger Information

Passenger Information Systems (PIS) are then used to communicate transport updates to passengers on the network. NEC’s real-time “prediction engine” uses multi-dimensional statistics and correlations which, by monitoring vehicle location, route, route progress and routing deviations, provide onboard passengers with accurate ETAs to their destination and accurate ETAs for passengers waiting for the arrival of their transport.

Passenger Information Systems deliver real-time information like travel time, travel speed, delay, accidents on roads, changes in route, diversions, work zone conditions etc. This information is delivered by a wide range of electronic devices like variable message signs, highway advisory radio, internet, or SMS.

Where does NEC fit into the smart transport system ecosystem?

Smart transportation systems bring many benefits and are contributing to the growing number of smart cities around the world. Of course, smart transportation is just one element of what makes a city smart, however, it is one of the key underpinning principles of a smart city along with other features including smart governance, smart energy, smart healthcare and smart infrastructure.

 Here at NEC New Zealand, we specialise in transport management solutions, leveraging the power of ICT to solve social and economic issues such as traffic congestion in public transport. By applying our many years of experience delivering successful projects to customers, NEC is achieving a more eco-friendly public transportation infrastructure.

Transport Management Solution (TMS) is the integration of a number of solutions for effective transport management. These include:

• Schedule Optimisation System

This uses the Excess Wait Time (EWT) index to evaluate vehicle operation reliability by measuring the average wait time that passengers experience at depots and stops. The closer EWT is to zero the better the regularity and predictability of service.

• Accident Reduction System

Reduce commercial vehicle accidents using vehicle operation data, accident videos and drive recorders and telemetrics.

• Driver Profiling System

Analyse data from fleet systems, driver behavioural data and driver experience data using telematics and sensors to predict increased risks and mitigations such as enhanced driver training.

You can find out more about these solutions on our Smart Transportation page.

Globally, NEC is contributing to smart transportation systems. In 2021, the city of Lisbon, Portugal contracted NEC to provide its Cloud City Operation Centre as part of the city’s Municipal Government Services Integrated Operation Centre. This system will allow several government bodies in Lisbon to receive and visualise real-time information about city conditions via IoT sensors.

As a result, local authorities will be able to visualise conditions like traffic jams and illegal parking in real-time and take corrective action. Going forward, NEC’s AI solution will also be integrated to enhance the autonomy and efficiency of the system.

You can read about our work globally on smart transportation systems on the global NEC website.


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