Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) aim to improve road safety and the driver experience. We look at how far we've come in car technology, and what a C-ITS future could be like.
The 1980s fictional movie Back to the Future promised us flying cars and time-travelling DeLoreans in the 2000s. While some are still impatiently waiting for the 'future' to deliver, we are, in the present day, surrounded by a range of futuristic car and road technologies that are more innovative than many could have ever imagined or predicted. New Cooperative Intelligence Transport Systems (C-ITS) technology (being currently developed and tested) has the potential to push the boundaries of car innovation even further.
There are many technologies and innovations being researched and made possible by motor companies and government organisations alike. Key themes of innovation are those that improve the driver experience, increase safety on the road and reduce the car's impact on the environment. Consider, for example, Intelligent Speed Assist, smartphone hands-free voice control functions, electricity-powered and zero-emission concept cars, and even cars that can drive without a driveri. These are all technologies that are trying to address the current issues we face as drivers and as communities that own and drive cars. C-ITS technology hopes to improve safety on the road and reduce traffic congestion.
Cooperative-Intelligent Transport Systems
C-ITS is a recent innovation that involves the integration of communication systems and multiple in-car technologies. C-ITS technology has the potential to allow 'vehicles and surrounding infrastructure to exchange information about the location, speed and direction of other road users also using C-ITS'ii. Its effectiveness relies on dedicated wireless communication technology, vehicle positioning data systems, and enhanced digital road mapsiii.
In essence, C-ITS will enable vehicles to monitor and be warned of potentially dangerous situations and hazardous conditions on the roadiv. For example, two vehicles installed with C-ITS, which are both approaching an intersection from different directions with no visibility of oncoming traffic, are able to broadcast and receive information on vehicle location, speed and direction to each other and other vehicles. With this information, both vehicles will be able to detect if there is a potential imminent collision, and warnings from their in-vehicle systems will allow the drivers to respond and reduce their speed to avoid collision, even before they are able to see the other vehicle approachingii.
Research conducted by Austroads and Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) concluded that C-ITS applications could provide a 25-35% reduction in serious road casualties involving able driversv. The benefits of C-ITS go beyond road safety, however, with this technology expected to improve traffic management; reduce traffic congestion and pollution; assist in driver decision-making; and allow for shorter travel periods that could, in turn, help alleviate driver frustrationii,vi.
There have been numerous C-ITS research prototypes developed overseas, including the European Union's Cooperative Vehicle-Infrastructure Systems (CVIS) project, the American Enhanced Digital Maps (EDMAP) project and the Japanese Driving Safety Support System (DSSS)vii, to name a few. However, in Australia, there has only been a small-scale project by La Trobe University, Melbourne, in which C-ITS has been installed in cars to warn of oncoming trains at two locations in metropolitan and rural Victoriaviii.
Another issue that C-ITS developers face surround Australian privacy and liability laws. There are concerns about the capacity of C-ITS technology in vehicles to produce data linked to individuals (drivers) and the potential of 'total road surveillance'ix. Appropriate implementation of C-ITS is under review so that Australian privacy laws are not jeopardised by the technologyviii.
So when will it be available to Australian drivers? It is predicted that within the next three to five years new cars will be installed with C-ITS technology and C-ITS units will become available as after-market devices for older vehicles. However, it is expected that it will take over a decade for this technology to become common in the Australian vehicle fleetviii.