But what is ITS?


Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) is a term that covers all use of technology in the transport sector to make transport systems safer, more efficient and more sustainable. This can include a variety of solutions, ranging from real-time information to enable road users and transport operators to take safer, smarter decisions, to fully automated transport systems where the decisions are taken for you.

ITS will play an important role in developing the smart towns and societies of the future, with good solutions for mobility and logistics.

Traffic monitoring and traffic management

In the highways sector, ITS technology was introduced in the 1990s through the implementation of driver support systems such as ABS brakes, GPS-based navigation tools and Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) in cars, and through enhanced traffic monitoring and management tools for the highways authorities.

What is referred to as mainstream ITS is now used by road traffic control centres in all of the Nordic countries to help them manage the traffic on roads, tunnels, bridges and mountain passes. Although ITS America was founded in 1991, for the following decade ITS technology developed under a variety of names in different places, and it was only in the 2000s that ITS became a common term in most of Europe.

Not just for highways – ITS is multimodal

In the case of rail, remote controlled systems started being used as far back as the 1940s, and the current automatic train control system was introduced in Norway in the late 1970s after the major accident at Tretten. The single biggest investment currently taking place in ITS for railways is ERTMS, a new signalling system that it is often referred to as a digital revolution for railways.

In the maritime transport sector, this kind of technology was referred to by other names until as recently as 2010, when the term ITS began to be used. In Norway, what we now call Maritime ITS technology has been under development for at least 20 years. It has led to the introduction of dedicated monitoring satellites and systems for communicating between ships and the shore, as well as paving the way for the first fully-automated ships.

Aviation has always been in a league of its own. As in the case of maritime transport, its technology has developed under international rules, which means that it has been highly dependent on international bodies. Nevertheless, the Norwegian aviation community has been heavily involved in several areas relating to aviation safety. Although these technologies can be considered ITS for aviation, the term is not widely used in the aviation industry.

More integrated mobility solutions

Mobility services will all develop in the same direction. Increasingly, numerous transport service providers (public transport, taxis, hire cars, cycles and micromobility) will seamlessly integrate their services to make life easier for travellers. The EU’s ITS Directive also provides a framework for developing integrated mobility services/Mobility as a Service (MaaS), which will lead to a similar standardisation of the flow of transport data.

Currently, the most interesting, novel applications for ITS are probably those related to transport hubs, like terminals, ports, stations and bus stops. Making these nodes more efficient is becoming a growing priority, and the term ITS is increasingly being used to refer to the technology needed to support that process.

Both for the various modes of transport and for hubs, there are two types of ITS technology: Mobility and C-ITS (communication between vehicles and infrastructure). While mobility technology helps to simplify passenger and freight transport, C-ITS represents the next generation of traffic monitoring and management.

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