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Intelligent and Environmentally-Sensitive Transportation System: An Alternative Vision


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Suggested Citation:
Sperling, Daniel and M. Replogle (1995) Intelligent and Environmentally-Sensitive Transportation System: An Alternative Vision. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Presentation Series UCD-ITS-RP-95-17

Proceedings of the National Conference on Intelligent Transportation Systems and the Environment

A recent US DOT plan guiding IVHS research correctly notes that, "Over the next 20 years, a national IVHS program could have a greater societal impact than even the Interstate Highway System." But what will those impacts be? What could they be?

The primary thrust of current IVHS initiatives is to accommodate more vehicles more safely using existing roadspace. The principal focus is on two sets of technologies: 1) real-time information to manage traffic flows better; and 2) automated controls to pack vehicles closer together. A variety of other applications are also being pursued, including transit and goods movement, but are receiving much less attention and government resources.

The benefits of current IVHS initiatives are coming under increasing scrutiny. It appears unlikely that deployment of IVHS technologies, other than automated vehicle controls, will lead to major congestion reductions or road capacity expansions. Highway automation could provide large capacity improvements, but perhaps at a huge economic, environmental, and social cost.

The current thrust of IVHS activities, as indicated above, has its historical origins in the highway engineering community; it is described in detail in the 1993 Draft National Program Plan for IVHS prepared by IVHS AMERICA. One might extrapolate these unfolding IVHS initiatives into the future and treat them as one potential IVHS scenario. It is a scenario that could be described as a pragmatic attempt to guide the development and deployment of information and control technologies or, less charitably, as a reductionist engineering approach to the problem of congestion and safety.

An alternative IVHS vision is proposed here. The overarching goal inspiring this vision is increased accessibility – not mobility; that is, improved access to goods and services, but with little or no increase in vehicle travel. Three complementary goals, suppressed or ignored in current IVHS activities, are also fundamental to this alternative vision: greater consideration of the less privileged, enhanced environmental quality, and community liability.

Pursuit of these goals would lead to a very different transportation future than in the first scenario. Many of the same IVHS products would be commercialized and promoted in both scenarios, with the difference being that in this second scenarios government more actively supports products and activities that benefit lower income classes and the environment. Government marshals its R&D resources, infrastructure investments, and rulemaking authority in such a way that goals of accessibility, equity, and environmental quality dominate the design of the overall system architecture. The many effects of IVHS technologies on travel behavior, land use patterns, vehicle acquisition decisions of households and businesses, and corporate logistical and facility location decisions are treated as primary impacts. The power of IVHS technologies to transform the urban and social landscape, similar to that of the Interstate Highway System, is acknowledged and harnessed.