Safeguarding the Road Ahead

Aug 1, 2018 8:30:00 AM / by Steve Jennings

The Greek physician Hippocrates admonished would-be healers: "First, do no harm." Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are designed to heal a host of ills: traffic congestion, air pollution, traffic accidents, rising transportation costs, and more. And just as medicine has advanced rapidly in our digital age, ITS technologists are tapping into emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and the "Internet of things" (IoT) to move people and goods more efficiently, safely, and sometimes profitably. But as we forge ahead, we would do well to remember Hippocrates and ensure that our systems can be trusted not to exacerbate the problems they were meant to solve.

As an example, one of the goals of ITS is to move more people and vehicles smoothly through existing transportation networks. But if a mission-critical part of the system fails, that means even more people and vehicles will be affected, with potentially serious results:

  • A malfunctioning intersection will cause more air pollution, since vehicles idling at red lights burn up to 17% of the fuel consumed in urban areas.
  • Loss of power to parking system sensors will cause more traffic congestion, because up to 30% of congestion is caused by drivers cruising the streets in search of a place to park.
  • Failure of a road temperature sensor network will cause more accidents, given that weather causes 28 percent of highway crashes and 19 percent of fatalities.

Planning for reliable operation of ITS is as fundamental as a surgeon washing his or her hands and using sterilized equipment for an operation. And it can be just as simple. For example, an Illinois study found that extreme high and low temperatures significantly affected the runtime of uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) at signalized intersections. Therefore, one way ITS designers can "do no harm" is by choosing UPS technology that operates reliably across the widest temperature range.

Unfortunately, the more complex our traffic solutions become, the more potential points of failure they present. So, innovation and reliability need to go hand in hand. Think of it as having a good "roadside manner."

Topics: UPS, Internet of Things, batteries

Steve Jennings

Written by Steve Jennings