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ITS – complying with standards

Posted on 03 July, 2014

Issues with radio spectrum and global navigation satellite system (GNSS) coverage illustrate why New Zealand must adopt standards that ensure the widest range of intelligent transport systems (ITS) can be used here. In general, this country looks to bodies such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO). The Ministry of Transport (MoT) has worked with Standards NZ and ITS NZ for the latter to become part of ISO TC 204 Intelligent Transport Systems2 – a technical committee that sets standards for many ITS aspects. “The ability to access standards quickly through a neutral organisation, and be part of the process of developing standards, will be of great importance,” says the MoT. It’s likely the MoT’s role will be in ensuring contributions from participants represent a consensus, while the  radio spectrum management team at the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment has a role in developing standards for communications.

Tacking geospatial mapping

Many ITS systems, particularly those using GNSS, rely on accurate three-dimensional digital geospatial information, such as maps. Systems using information to position a car need to be highly accurate, while positioning a vehicle for route planning requires less precision. Commercial shipping relies on accurate navigational charts to plan routes to reduce fuel consumption and pilots needed, and to use deeper draught vessels with more cargo. Most marine accidents are due to human error. The introduction of a mandatory electronic chart display and information system (ECDIS) in certain vessels – particularly larger ships – aims to reduce this. Electronic charts when used with ECDIS integrate with other navigational systems and give access to more safety data. ECDIS enables mariners to digitally layer charting information with other information to aid navigation. Maritime NZ intends to review rules to bring Kiwi law into line with the international standards. Geospatial data is managed by government agencies and commercial providers. Land Information NZ (LINZ) is working increase the productive use of location-based information. ITS, including some on heavy vehicles, are available that rely on accurate 3D maps. It’s now possible for some automatic transmission units to calculate when to shift gears using sensor data and route information. Units shift to the most economical gear before an operator can. Research in the US indicates such systems, if used in the light-vehicle fleet, may cut fuel consumption by five to 15 per cent. Network data captures different information with various degrees of accuracy. For example, some include information such as speed limits or a road’s centre line. The government will now focus on developing a business case for a co-ordinated approach to collecting, buying and maintaining network data.

User interfaces and ITS challenges

As vehicle functions get more automated and new functions become available, skills once essential may be rarely needed while new ones become necessary. Technologies can also develop faster than public attitudes and regulation can keep pace. If some ITS don’t always function as intended or in every situation, people will need to intervene. The mix of old and new technologies raises practical issues. For example, the driver licence test requires people to carry out parallel parking. Should applicants be able to use automated parking functions in tests? New driver aids on cars, such as lane-departure avoidance and brake assist, mean drivers who depend on them could get into trouble if they use vehicles that don’t have them. It’s unclear how much of a risk this is, but research into what’s known as the ‘human-machine interface’ (HMI) could reduce it. One approach, used for electronic stability control, is for the assistance to be slightly less effective than is possible to ensure drivers are aware they are exceeding a vehicle’s limits. HMI development will create opportunities to better match accessing technology to users’ needs. In-vehicle displays may soon able to display information in ways operators prefer. Increased flexibility will benefit elderly or disabled people. Another concern with in-vehicle ITS is that extra information will be distracting for operators. This may be a particular problem with systems that haven’t been developed in the vehicle, such as after-market equipment or smartphone applications with small displays. However, given the fleet’s age, after-market equipment will be necessary to provide benefits to existing vehicles. It will not always be possible to anticipate problems. It’s likely existing knowledge around distraction, such as ensuring drivers do not take their eyes off the road for more than a few seconds, will be relevant to new ITS. Current distraction rules are set out in the Land Transport Rule 2004. By next year, government proposes to review rules that refer to specific technologies – such as cellphones and reversing cameras – to see if they address risks associated with the wider range of devices available now and in the future. It will also review international research on the implications of new ITS in relation to driver distraction and skills requirements.