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Tuesday 13 May 2014

ITS (Intelligent Transport Systems) have become an important component of smart cities in recent years. Huel-Sheng Tsay, Commissioner, Department of Rapid Transit Systems, Taipei City Government, noted that ITS productively integrate and utilize advanced information technologies, information/communication transfer, electronic sensors, artificial intelligence and computer processing in transportation and management systems, enhancing the efficiency of system resource usage and system security, and reducing consumption and environmental pollution.

Characteristics of 3 major ITS fields

ITS can be further defined into APTS (Advanced Public Transportation Systems), ATIS (Advanced Traveler Information Systems), and ATMS (Advanced Transportation Management Systems). Tsay said that development in these three fields has thrived and exceeded original estimates, becoming a defining component of smart cities.

In the development of urbanization and informatization, six characteristics consisting of smart economy, smart people, smart governance, smart mobility, smart environment and smart living need to be addressed as traditional cities migrate to smart cities, said Tsay. The sustainability, innovation and safety of transportation systems bring significant convenience to citizens in terms of smart mobility.

Nevertheless, a single plan cannot be applied for every smart city. Tsay suggested that each smart city needs to optimize its expertise and identify features upon which to target enhancement. For instance, Yokohama in Japan has employed colors to represent traffic congestion on electronic maps, and even supports road images on GPS. This function could not be achieved five years ago, but it operates well today.

In addition, the timetable of the Tokyo Monorail, which also supports multiple languages in a timely way, can be accessed at the Tokyo Haneda Airport. Highway conditions are also provided to help drivers to judge road conditions.

Tsay believes that as an ITS reaches the end of its development, it is crucial that that system makes the public feel that information has been provided in a convenient way. For example, time to reach a destination can be provided at rest stops. Available and accurate information, which relies on comprehensive fundamental infrastructure in which backend systems provide necessary and accurate information, must be available. Thus if there is a car accident, systems are capable of showing the distance it will take to run into a traffic jam.

Take safe driving support for example, ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) can be adopted to prevent cars from crashing head-on, but an alarm system which sets off in advance while sensing obstacles ahead should be included in transportation infrastructure so as to cooperate with crash prevention auxiliary braking systems, avoiding collisions one intersection ahead.

The construction of fundamental infrastructure for displaying information in real-time, ranging from available seats on trains, rental bikes available, road conditions, etc., is never easy. In the example of digital signage on roads, in addition to displaying accurate information, the ability to endure harsh weather conditions should also be taken into consideration.

Tsay gave an example of ITS in Taipei. The fundamental infrastructure involves roadside devices and ICT, and can be divided into a service-side and management-side. On the management-side, open data is adopted by systems that assist civilians; this includes apps, websites, voice services and roadside devices, such as the Taipei Good to Go and Taipei Good to Park apps, as well as numerous apps developed by the public.

City public transportation systems are intimately connected.

As for the development of public transportation infrastructure in the Taipei Metropolitan area, the Taipei Metro and shuttle buses form a road network with each performing its duty. The Taipei Metro acts as the bones of transportation, targeting large volumes and punctuality. Aside from coordinating with different shuttle buses, the first and last mile rely on walking, public bikes, community buses and taxis to form a complete and convenient public service.

There is still plenty of room for improvement to make a better ITS, as noted by Tsay. For instance, computer signage systems have evolved from being controlled by mainframe computers to PCs. However, if systems show that parking space is still available but drivers cannot find a space, or if a bus does not arrive by its estimated time, consumers are not pleased. The design of ITS needs to be more subtle, and include not only a framework but also accurate information.

In the future, more automated ATIS, including the installation of devices on all buses, increasing the amount of traffic control devices such as car detection devices, CCTV monitors and software, as well as real-time parking space monitoring services, will be offered in Taipei. Given that communication technologies will mature, mobile devices will become more prevalent. In the future, more convenient services will be offered to the public through the Taipei real-time ATIS and Taipei Good to Go app.

In Tsay's opinion, Taipei still has a lot of opportunities for further enhancement compared to Japan. In February 2009, Taipei started accepting requests from organizations to interlink with its real-time ATIS database in order to provide diverse services. Currently, there are 105 interlinking organizations, 74 services and products, and peak monthly inquiries have exceeded 75.22 million.

Concerning the application of ATMS, traffic control systems transfer related information to the traffic control center through roadside devices including cameras, car detection devices, changeable information boards and intersection signage boards, in order to implement traffic monitoring, sign management, as well as collect and analyze traffic information. The goal is to lower the impact of traffic accidents, enhance road transport efficiency, and further increase the quality of ATMS.

As for the construction of the Taipei Metro, Tsay forecast that daily volume could peak at two million after the Songshan line enters service, delivering a great improvement on traffic and air pollution in Taipei. As a matter of fact, the management of the Taipei Metro has become an Asia paragon. As Tsay indicated, Taipei used to learn from Hong Kong and Singapore, but now the situation has reversed. The Taipei Metro's performance, especially in train intervals, has impressed Singapore a lot.

Tsay emphasized that the development of ITS has had a dramatic change on convenience, safety and accessibility in people's daily life, as well as enabling more user-friendly infrastructure/devices, generating a lot of added value and increasing quality of life. For the future, development will look to ways of providing information regarding specific accidents in a timely way to reduce injuries and deaths.

Huel-Sheng Tsay

Huel-Sheng Tsay, Commissioner, Department of Rapid Transit Systems, Taipei City Government

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