Traveling "Smarter" In The Next Century

Some modern innovations may make traveling a lot easier very soon. Consider this:

On your last vacation or business trip, did your rental car have a computerized map on the dashboard that helped you find your way around town? Have you seen electronic message signs alerting you to traffic conditions up ahead? Have you ever gotten travel directions from an interactive electronic kiosk?

Many American communities have turned to electronic systems like these to help solve their traffic problems. Federal, state and local government agencies are partnering with private industry to provide "intelligent" transportation systems (ITS) that allow drivers and passengers to travel more "intelligently" on existing roads and streets.

Recently two key players in the ITS arena took an important step toward the creation of a nationwide ITS program. The U.S. Department of Transportation and ITS America, an educational and scientific society which advises the U.S. DOT, unveiled the National Surface Transportation Goal for ITS: to complete deployment of basic ITS services for consumers of passenger and freight transportation across the nation by the year 2005. These "basic" services fall into three key categories: travel information and transportation management; intermodal freight operations,; and in-vehicle and personal information systems. Each collection of services represents an impressive variety of technologies, most of which currently exist.

Drivers will no longer find out about traffic problems or road construction the moment they enter a congested stretch of highway-they will be informed in advance. Struggling with unwieldy maps in unfamiliar territory will be a thing of the past-in-vehicle voice and video devices will give directions.

Variable message signs, electronic information kiosks and other traveler information systems will provide information about traffic conditions and alternate routes. A centralized traffic management system will provide transportation officials with the real-time traffic information necessary to reduce congestion, improve emergency vehicle response time to accidents, and identify environmental hazards.

For the millions of truck drivers who travel the U.S. highways every day, ITS technology will allow enforcement officials to conduct inspection checks electronically, allowing safe and legal vehicles to travel with fewer stops. Similar systems would monitor driver fatigue and vehicle operation, preventing accidents and saving lives. And centralized vehicle tracking systems will reduce delays and streamline routing.

The goal is to make available advanced technologies already in use in some areas. Collision warning systems inform drivers about potential hazards; electronic toll payment devices allow vehicles to pass through toll booths without stopping; and route guidance systems help drivers navigate the streets.

The U.S. DOT and ITS America, along with a large coalition of public and private partners, are committed to bringing affordable and reliable technologies like these to travelers across the nation shortly after the turn of the century.

For a free copy of the brochure "What is ITS?" contact ITS America, 400 Virginia Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024, tel. 1-800-374-8472. (NAPSI)

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