ITS at an Early Stage (1960s – 1980s)
In the 1960s, Driver Aided Information and Routing System (DAIR) and Electronic Route Guidance System (ERGS), which were regarded as the ITS application at an early stage, came out in the United States. Free-flow tolling was also tested by mounting transponders underneath vehicles and installing readers just under the surface of the highway in the 1960s and 1970s. No significant progress in intelligent transportation was made by the mid-1980s but a series of automatic vehicle location experiments were conducted by Federal Transit Administration.
In 1986, a multi-disciplinary research and development program on advanced technologies for the highway (PATH) was initiated. Later in 1988, Mobility 2000, an informal assembly of industry, university, and government representatives, was formed to promote the use of advanced technologies to improve highway safety and efficiency.
ITS in the 1990S
In 1990, Intelligent Vehicle Highway Society of America (IVHS America) was founded. The initiative was formalized in 1991, when the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) was enacted. Under ISTEA, the national Intelligent Vehicle Highway System (IVHS) program was established, with approximately $660 million authorized for the 6-year authorization period. In the same year, the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority’s Pikepass became the first ETC system in the United States. Since then, ETC has become widespread across the United States.
In February 1994, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) established a Joint IVHS Program Office (JPO) to coordinate intermodal policy in the implementation of the IVHS program. A growing sense soon developed in the IVHS community, especially in the public transit arena, that “intelligent vehicle highway systems” did not embrace all the transportation modes addressed in the national IVHS program. In the autumn of 1994, the national IVHS program was renamed the Intelligent Transportation System (ITS), to clarify the multi-modal intent, together with IVHS America renaming as Intelligent Transportation Society of America (ITS America).
In 1995, National ITS Program Plan was jointly released by the US Department of Transportation and ITS America, providing a comprehensive planning reference for the application of intelligent transportation systems. The program is focused on the development and deployment of a collection of inter-related user services, with 29 defined user services as part of the national program planning process. The twenty-nine user services were sorted into seven categories, including travel and transportation management, travel demand management, public transportation operations, electronic payment, commercial vehicle operations, emergency management, and advanced vehicle control and safety systems.
In 1996, Operation Time Saver was announced to be implemented, aiming to deploy intelligent transportation infrastructure in 75 metropolitans within 10 years to cut short 10 percent of the travelling time. In 1997, Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) was enacted. TEA-21 authorized a total of $1.3 billion for fiscal year 1998 through 2003 to fund the ITS program. TEA-21 moved the USDOT’s ITS Program from a moderate research program to a program that both researches and deploys ITS technologies.
ITS in the 21st century
In 2005, the Congress enacted the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which ended the ITS Deployment Program at the close of fiscal year 2005, but continued ITS research at $110 million annually through fiscal year 2009.
In 2012, Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) was signed into law, with over $105 billion funds for fiscal years 2013 and 2014. MAP-21 continued support for the ITS Program by restoring the ITS research budget to $100 million per year and establishing a Technology and Innovation Deployment program for $62.5 million per year. It created a performance-based surface transportation program and changed the focus of ITS activities to encourage deployment of ITS technologies that will improve the performance of the national highway system.
In October 2015, Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act was signed, providing long-term funding certainty for surface transportation. The FAST Act includes the Transportation for Tomorrow Act of 2015, which will fund critical research and accelerate the adoption of technologies to address safety, traffic congestion, mobility, infrastructure condition, and other transportation challenges.
In March 2020, ITS JPO released the strategic plan 2020-2025, which outlines six high-priority research areas in intelligent transportation, including emerging and enabling technologies, data access and exchanges, cybersecurity for ITS, automation, complete trip-ITS4US, and accelerating ITS deployment.