Caltrans Director Morales to Attend Calit2 Transportation Meeting

US Dept. of Transportation and Caltrans to Present at Calit² Transportation Meeting

Research into new "intelligent" roads and autos will get a shot in the arm when participants in Calit²'s intelligent transportation and telematics research initiative meet in San Diego on October 19. University researchers, industrial partners and representatives of funding organizations, including US Dept. of Transportation and Caltrans, will participate in the kick-off meeting of the Intelligent Transportation and Telematics System (ITTS) initiative (registration required).

To prepare for the event, roughly two dozen researchers from UC Irvine and UC San Diego convened on August 7 at UCSD's Computer Vision & Robotics Research (CVRR) laboratory for the first joint technical group meeting of ITTS. The research initiative is led by CVRR director Mohan Trivedi and by Will Recker, director of UC Irvine's Institute of Transportation Studies. Recker and Trivedi are, respectively, Calit²'s intelligent transportation and telematics 'layer leaders' for UC Irvine and UC San Diego. More on the institute's research agenda at

Calit² ITTS Projects
At the meeting, UCI and UCSD researchers agreed to formulate a joint research program based on the expertise each group has developed in areas of transportation systems design, sensor-based technologies and high-accuracy global positioning. They also agreed to sketch out the main parameters of the combined research effort before the October 19 ITTS meeting. Officials attending that workshop from Calit²'s industrial partners and funding agencies will be asked to provide input, direction and research support for the stepped-up program.
During the August meeting, project managers provided detailed outlines of research underway at both UC campuses under the Calit² umbrella. (Presentation graphics are at There was wide agreement among participants in the technical group meeting that there are immediate as well as long-term opportunities for UCSD and UCI researchers to team up on projects in intelligent transportation and telematics. Specifically, they will explore ways to use the Shared-Use Station Car fleet of EV (electric vehicles)(see below) as a test-bed for technologies now under development both at UCSD and at UCI, including possible expansion of the station-car initiative to San Diego.

UC Irvine Calit² Projects
As part of Calit²'s long-term goal of applying information technology to guide "livable" urban development, Will Recker introduced two major programs that UCI researchers are working on:
"AutoNet, an Autonomous, self-organizing information Network and control system for effective management of interactions among intelligently informed vehicles, roadways, and stations. This is a long-term project to enable mobile, ad hoc, wireless peer-to-peer electronic communication between "smart" vehicles traveling at high speed that will lay the foundation for a wireless information system that can become the central nervous system of urban transportation networks; and" ZevNet (Zero emission vehicle Network enabled transportation), a Shared-Use Station Car program linking California train stations to major employment areas that will serve as a "living laboratory" for developing this multi-modal transportation concept and as a "testbed platform" for launching Calit² research and development of AutoNet.

UC Irvine's Michael McNally, director of the UCI Transportation Science Program, took the group through a detailed presentation on AutoNet and ZevNet. He described AutoNet as being the development of new initiative in intelligent transportation systems based on the next generation of wireless communications in which vehicles will be equipped with navigation devices that communicate with each other, with traffic monitoring stations strung out along the highway, and with private firms providing enhanced navigational and other services. Vehicle-to-vehicle communication will provide the drivers with vehicle guidance, such as advance notification of impending lane changes by neighboring vehicles, obstacle detection and collision avoidance warnings. This peer-to-peer network will also allow sharing of traffic and other data. The roadside data stations broadcast data on traffic conditions, weather and road surface conditions, and other important information to passing vehicles, while simultaneously collecting detailed traffic flow data. Navigation devices will also have access to commercial navigation and route guidance services that will provide augmented traffic data based on advanced traffic prediction algorithms. Beyond its capabilities for potentially changing the nature of road traffic systems, AutoNet could develop into the first large-scale mobile network of computers that can do information processing in a networked-computing fashion without the capacity/bandwidth bottlenecks in a static processor network.

Focusing on the near-term ZevNet project (already underway), McNally described a pilot program involving zero-emission vehicles, in partnership with CARB-the California Air Resources Board-as part of auto manufacturers' compliance with California-mandated low and zero-emission vehicle regulations. By way of background, CARB has mandated that by the 2003 model year, at least 4% of each manufacturer's vehicles sold in California must be zero-emission, and at least 10% zero or low-emission. However, the board is setting up a system of credits that will allow manufacturers to offset a part of the zero-emission requirement through credits earned from deploying pollution-free car fleets in coordinated, multi-modal programs that feature information technology.

To that end, UCI's Institute of Transportation Studies and the Advanced Power and Energy Program are in advanced discussions to build and administer a pilot Shared-Use Station Car Initiative. Shared-use vehicle programs are similar to corporate motor fleets; in this case, ZevNet would operate a fleet of battery-powered electric vehicles (EV) and hybrid vehicles that would be used by multiple drivers in a given day, going between train stations and key employment sites in southern California. Fifteen vehicles (initially Toyota's E-COM electric city vehicles) are currently being deployed, and 100 more (including EV versions of Toyota's RAV-4 compact SUV and the Toyota Prius) are scheduled to be deployed over the next six months. "Eventually we expect to have 200 vehicles in the trial," said McNally. "But we're also hoping that this will lead to a full-fledged station car program in California."

Here's how the program would work. Participating companies and UCI would allow employees to use zero-emission vehicles supplied through ZevNet. Battery-charging stations will be built at stations and key sites (e.g., the Irvine Transport Center at Irvine Spectrum, and UCI University Research Park). The cars would be for the use of any authorized participating company employees between the train stations and the office areas. During the day, multiple users will be able to make reservations to use the EVs for regular business. The goal is to maximize the use of each vehicle and reduce the equivalent amount of gas-powered-vehicle use (and therefore pollution). Said McNally: "We are hoping to have an average of five to ten drivers of each car on a daily basis, and that isn't counting other passengers." Added Will Recker: "There are other types of pilot projects for joint-use vehicles around the state and country, but UCI ZevNet would be the first IT-based shared-use station-car program in California."

The UCI researchers are planning to use the station-car program as a test-bed for other technologies, ranging from "virtual keys" (a keyless interface to unlock the car from a wireless phone or PDA) to en-route navigation aids, and car-to-car communications that are the focus of UCI's AutoNet project. "Most new programs involving information systems for transportation focus on road infrastructure," said McNally. "With Autonet, we are trying to build those infrastructure information systems into cars as well."

UC San Diego Calit² Projects
"What UCI is doing with ZevNet and AutoNet meshes very well with the research we are doing into intelligent transportation and telematics at UCSD," said Mohan Trivedi. The professor of electrical engineering at the university's Jacobs School of Engineering briefed meeting participants on a few current research projects (presentation graphics are available at, including:

  • Distributed, active video networks
  • Moving object/shadow detection
  • Televiewing using omni-directional cameras
  • Semantic databases and architecture
  • Mobile interactive avatars

Among the newest programs:

  • Visual context capture for "smart" cars
  • Microphone arrays for "smart" cars
  • Wireless mobile multimedia systems
  • Online structural health monitoring

With funding from Caltrans, several of the above research endeavors are combined in the Autonomous Agents for On-Scene Networked Incident Management (ATON) project. The system will use clusters of video and acoustic sensors, mobile robotic agents, interactive multimedia workstations and interfaces, all connected using high-speed, high-bandwidth communication links. The sensors --including omni-directional cameras already deployed on the UCSD campus-- will monitor traffic and automatically detect an incident. Remote agents will be deployed for verification and for on-scene deployment of specialized sensors and interactivity tools. Trivedi and his team demonstrated the prototype of a Mobile Interactive Avatar (MIA) with wireless, two-way video and other sensing and communications capabilities.

According to Trivedi, ITTS activities at UCSD are focused on integrating three main constituents for powerful and effective transportation and telematic systems: intelligent roads, bridges and highway; intelligent vehicles; and intelligent stations and services.
"Investigation and development of novel and powerful technology for improved safety, convenience, and experience in the context of these three main constituents are emphasized in our proposed research themes," said Trivedi.

Trivedi also elaborated on his group's major research themes. One is the distribution and evolution of "intelligence" among infrastructures, vehicles and services. "The development of intelligent infrastructures (roads, bridges, highways) is primarily pursued by governmental agencies," said the CVRR director. "The development of intelligent automobiles is pursed by commercial industry, while development of intelligent stations and services will involve both private and public enterprises. These developments are pursued in a somewhat independent manner. This gives rise to a range of very important research problems centered on the distribution of the resources and functionalities critical to the effective operation of the overall system. These problems are incrementally evolving in infrastructures and in vehicles. We will address important issues such as: what kind of overall system performance and functionalities will be achieved in this incrementally evolving scenario and how we can ensure a seamless and scalable model for the growth of this complex system."

A second research theme is driver distraction and safety. The growth of various wireless and telematic devices promises to be a major factor in making our professional lives more productive and our personal lives more convenient. However, there is also rising concern about how distractive these devices and gadgets will be. It is critically important to ensure that the use of these new technologies does not adversely affect the safety of the driver and others. We will undertake systematic research where development as well as safety assessment of the new types of telematic devices will be at the core of the investigations.

Trivedi said his group's third major theme is dynamic environmental, structural, and vehicular condition monitoring using mobile webs. Embedded sensors and wireless technologies deployed in a vehicle can provide powerful and dynamic means for monitoring various environmental, structural (bridges, roads, seismic, etc.) and vehicular conditions. Such information will be of value to a wide range of government and private entities. Once again this particular theme is the interface of the intelligent infrastructures-intelligent vehicles-and-intelligent services research. Research studies to investigate what types of conditions need monitoring, what kinds of embedded sensors, preprocessing, information pick-up and visualization modules need to be designed and what the deployment configuration of these sensorized vehicles should be in order to achieve the specified quality of measurements, will be pursued. This theme also has a direct relevance to our ongoing research in traffic incident monitoring and congestion mitigation as well as that associated with the bridge structures health monitoring.