Summary of WITTS

SpeakerSummary of Presentations:

[DOT] [Caltrans] [View from Japan] [View from Austin]
UC Irvine] [UC San Diego] [Automakers]
Systems & Wireless]

GroupLeading experts on the next-generation of "smart" cars and roads converged on San Diego October 19 for the inaugural Workshop on Intelligent Transportation and Telematic Systems (WITTS). Sponsored by Calit², the meeting brought together academic researchers from UC Irvine and UC San Diego as well as industry partners and government officials involved in development of transportation systems for California and the nation. "We're pulling together a set of people who understand the frontiers of wireless and telematics technology to prototype a system that could work in the real world," said Calit² director Larry Smarr in his opening remarks. "Calit² is researching novel solutions to help alleviate traffic congestion in the future, and which we believe was part of [California] Governor Davis's vision for this institute."

Group2Smarr noted that the sensors and microchips connecting cars to the Web will quickly overtake the installed base of desktop PCs: "If there are a hundred million cars with 25 embedded processors each-that is 25 times the number of PCs connected to the Internet today." As such, he said, networked cars and roads will be in the forefront of Calit²'s mission to help extend the Internet throughout the physical world.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) is tracking progress toward achieving the goal of deploying an intelligent transportation system (ITS) infrastructure in the nation's largest metro areas. Said Ron Boenau of DOT's Federal Transportation Administration: "We are looking at 78 areas, measuring levels of ITS component deployment and the level of integration between agencies that operate the infrastructure. The benefits of ITS: Increased operational productivity, efficiency, increased transit operating speeds, and decreased operational costs."

Boenau said the DOT is looking at a host of technologies that will need to be integrated into a seamless transport infrastructure. Those technologies include:

The latter, the DOT official explained, faces opposition from organized labor, because "the unions don't like the Big Brother concept of being able to locate drivers at all times."

Boenau said that "standards will be necessary to integrate systems from different manufacturers and systems within a vehicle," but he noted that the federal government is leaving it up to industry to agree on its own standards. He also indicated that his agency will provide additional guidance in the next 3-6 months on how it sees the national ITS infrastructure developing-a framework within which every local metro area can work. Boenau also told attendees that the FTA is actively engaged in various partnerships with universities, especially those partnering with small businesses: "The path to deployment of university research has to involve the industrial sector."

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"We are committed to deploying intelligent transportation systems, because they hold great promise for relief of congestion on America's highways," said John Allison, Division Chief of New Technology and Research at the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). "I hope to see scores of students, professors, us, private industry--all working together. The synergy that promotes will lead to breakthroughs." Allison noted that his agency's new-technology budget now runs $46 million a year, with much of the research done on University of California campuses. Some of that research is already reaching commercialization; Allison mentioned private industry is now licensing equipment developed at UC Davis for picking up traffic cones automatically.

Meanwhile, recent budget increases have allowed Caltrans to promote technologies for collision avoidance and emergency communications. Allison also said the agency is renewing its efforts to ensure the security of the transportation infrastructure in the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, and would be sponsoring a conference Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C., on how the transportation sector can combat terrorism. Caltrans is also looking to deploy security devices on all bridges and tunnels. "We also want to take better advantage of various expertise at UC campuses," said Allison. "We are looking at creating a more distributed, but integrated research program that leverages the different strengths of each campus."

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View from Japan [.pdf of presentation]
The advent of third-generation (3G) mobile communications in Japan (ahead of the United States) is also indicative of the pace the Asian nation is setting in the telematics and transportation fields. Workshop participants were impressed with the presentation of Professor Katsushi Ikeuchi, a distinguished Professor from the University of Tokyo and a world-renowned expert in the field of computer vision and intelligent transportation. "The major characteristics of our work in Japan is on navigation, driver services, and safe driving assistance," said Ikeuchi. "Our ability to provide information to drivers will increase dramatically as a result of the dynamic communications made possible by 3G mobile systems."

Japan is also blanketing the country with a centralized system that will be complete by 2005. Dubbed VICS (short for "Vehicle Information & Communication System"), the system will tap into in-vehicle terminals for car navigation and on-board emergency notification systems to gather road information in real time. The VICS center will then provide drivers with information on the least congested routes via radio or optical beacons and FM multiplex broadcasting. For the moment, drivers cannot talk to the center, but that will change as 3G makes bi-directional communications feasible.

Already, the VICS system deployed in major urban areas has accelerated reporting of emergencies. "It has reduced the time to hospital from an average of more than 16 minutes before, to barely 7 minutes now," said Ikeuchi. "That boosts the chance of saving those lives to 90%." By the end of 2002, 70% of toll booths will be equipped with electronic toll collection, and, since 35% of Japanese jams are at toll booths, the technology is reducing congestion.

Japanese drivers have also purchased nearly 2.5 million in-vehicle safe driving terminals. They allow for automatic reporting of accidents by hitting a manual switch; that, plus navigation information on the car's exact location, provides police with faster notice.

Ikeuchi also talked about plans underway to improve driving safety on major highways. As early as 2003, Japan will begin installing the first Smart Cruise 21 systems in cars and along major roads. With cameras and other sensors mounted on vehicles communicating with each other and with roadway systems, drivers will be able to put the car on "cruise" and leave the driving to computers. The system will prevent cars from straying from their lanes, or colliding with pedestrians or vehicles in the vicinity. Ikeuchi expects 150,000 kilometers of Japanese highways to be equipped with Smart Cruise 21 technology by 2010.

In his Tokyo University lab, the Japanese researcher is focusing on:

Ikeuchi is also experimenting with 360-degree cameras on vehicles to model urban scenes in 3-D panoramas that enhance visualization of real-time traffic conditions. As he concluded: "Intelligent transportation systems will lead to safer mobility, greater survivability in accidents, and also reduce pollution."

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View from Austin [.pdf of presentation]
"Wireless communication has the potential to become an integral element of transportation system operation," said Hani Mahmassani, professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "It will be a source of system-state information as input to management support tools and a delivery medium of an expanded realm of information and other control actions." He added that there will be a proliferation of opportunities to develop transportation-related content for 3G services, including navigation and route guidance tools as well as in-vehicle infotainment.

In his presentation titled "Perpetual Virtual Motion: Transportation Systems Research for the Age of Wireless Telecommunications" (downloadable here in PDF file format), Mahmassani focused on transportation systems and policy issues rather than telematics in particular. "The convergence of transportation and telecommunications goes well beyond the improved operational performance of cars and roads and better fleet management," he noted. "There is a natural complementarity between transportation and telecom systems; both are complex dynamic spatial systems that involve non-linear interactions among human beings and advanced technologies, in a network setting to deliver services that meet critical human needs."

Mahmassani predicted that the convergence of location, telecommunications and auto technologies will yield better transportation system safety, efficiency and user convenience. He outlined four general areas for research:

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UC Irvine [.pdf of presentation]
The workshop presentations of Ikeuchi and Mahmassani led into digests of key research activities at the two campuses collaborating through Calit²: UC Irvine and UC San Diego. The institute's "layer leader" in Irvine, Will Recker, began with an overview of the scope of Calit² activities in the transport sector, including:

Institute of Transportation Studies As director of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Irvine, Recker oversees a $3-million annual research budget, 50 graduate students and 25 faculty. Currently, he is working on an Advanced Transportation Systems Testbed-a fully instrumented research environment to share real-time data and compare results with simulation models. The testbed includes a mobile surveillance unit to collect freeway data and control ramp metering.

The Calit² layer leader says intelligent transportation systems represent a fundamental shift in the way instrumentation will be done in the transportation sector. "It is evolving from the pavement to the vehicle; from sparse and rudimentary to static and rich data; from processing data exclusively at traffic management centers to doing it in vehicles," said Recker. "That means decision making will go from historical to real-time, from control-based to information-based, and from managed to self-organizing."

Recker gave workshop participants an outline of his institute's Autonomous, self-organizing information Network (AutoNet) and control system for effective management of interactions among intelligently informed vehicles, roadways and stations. "AutoNet will be a mobile, ad hoc wireless peer-to-peer electronic communication, linking cars-even traveling at high speeds-into a wireless information system that can become the central nervous system of urban transportation networks." The professor sees "autos as moving cells of information, and the challenge is how to share the information among cells and fuse them into a cohesive whole."

Recker also outlined an extension of the project called ZevNet (Zero emission vehicle Network-enabled transportation). The multi-modal Shared-Use Station Car program couples rail transit with shared-use cars as an alternative for commuting in major employment areas.

Among the research issues singled out by Recker: sensor technology (self-powered or traffic-powered); data management and fusion; computing (distributed processing or "grid" processing); and dynamic algorithms to optimize the network in real time. (For more on Recker and ITS's work, go to

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UC San Diego [.pdf of presentation]
Recker's counterpart at UC San Diego, Mohan Trivedi, began his presentation by explaining what he means when he talks about intelligent transportation and telematic systems. He said they include:

Trivedi listed his research group's core competencies as "sensing, wireless, computing, software, human interfaces and cognitive science." On the latter, Trivedi noted that his group is working with UCSD's trend-setting Cognitive Science department--the first department of its kind in the country.

According to Trivedi, his team's research on development of novel transportation and telematic systems is focusing on how to:

Computer Vision and Robotics ResearchUnder Trivedi's direction, researchers at UCSD's Computer Vision & Robotics Research (CVRR) lab are working on a project called ATON, short for Autonomous agents for On-scene Networked incident management. 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 on-scene deployment of specialized sensors and interactivity tools. Trivedi also talked about a prototype robotic device recently built in his lab call MIA (Mobile Interactive Avatar)-a mobile device with wireless, two-way Internet video and other sensing and communications capabilities.

The UC San Diego professor also spelled out three research themes. "The first is the distribution and evolution of intelligence among infrastructures, vehicles, and services," said Trivedi. "Second, we are looking at dynamic environmental, structural, and vehicular condition monitoring using mobile webs. And finally, we are keenly interested in technologies that may reduce driver distraction and therefore enhance safety."

According to Trivedi, 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, he said, "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." (For more on the work of Trivedi and CVRR, go to

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Several car companies working on different aspects of "smart" autos gave short presentations at the workshop, and mentioned areas of potential interest for future Calit² research. Volkswagen's Klaus Schaaf talked about the human-machine interface-"allowing drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road." Jane MacFarlane of GM's OnStar agreed. "We have clearly opted for a voice orientation," she said. "We don't want to distract the driver the way we would if we had adopted a display orientation." OnStar's voice-based interface already supports access to traffic reports, roadside assistance, remote locking, hotel reservations and even personal calling (after programming phone numbers into the vehicle using voice recognition). Concluded MacFarlane: "We are looking for IT solutions rather than device solutions." Toyota also considers the integration of voice services a prime area of interest. The Japanese automaker's Bill Reinert also noted that anything that relieves traffic jams will be welcome: "Congestion has become a quality-of-life and employee retention issue." Wingcast, a joint venture of Qualcomm and Ford Motor, is charged with developing wireless-based telematics, and not just for Ford, according to the company's Erwin Boer.

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Systems & Wireless
WirelessCar led the shortlist of industry partners that aim to supply services across car platforms. The Volvo-Ericsson-Telia joint venture's Paul Drysch said its Universal Telematics Network (already available in Scandinavia) offers car makers and fleet owners a wireless platform and billing engine that will accommodate new services as they come on stream. Truck owners are already familiar with Omnitracs (400,000 units shipped so far), a service of Qualcomm. (Click here for .pdf file of presentation graphics.) The company's James Ostrich sees future demand for tracking hazardous waste and high-value asset shipments, as well as real-time voice, video and telemetry broadcasting. Ostrich also noted that Omnitracs is betting on "software-based solutions that allow for reprogramming over the air, rather than relying on ASICS and other hardware." Radha Giduthuri of Equator Technologies agreed. He called the company a fabless semiconductor developer focusing on enabling broadband solutions. Equator's "system-on-a-chip is essentially a universal video platform," said Giduthuri. "We are putting all video functions into software rather than ASICS, thus reducing development time as new products come online." One heightened area of interest since September 11, he said, is surveillance.

Unlike Omnitracs, WirelessCar or OnStar, Sensoria is an open platform inside the car that interfaces with 802.11, Bluetooth and cellular (AMPS). The company's CEO, Dave Gelvin, said Sensoria enables the car maker, dealer or driver to import devices such as PDAs and MP3 players to work on the network. Gelvin said he would like to get Calit² researchers to develop applications to run on the Sensoria platform. Nancy Neigus of Hughes Network Systems reminded everyone that HNS was the original developer of OnStar. HNS operates large-scale satellite networks to push high-bandwidth multimedia for major corporations, and Neigus said the firm is "in a unique position to deliver it to automobiles." In his presentation, Manuel Jaime of Network Car said the company's target customer is the auto dealer. Network Car's onboard system compiles tons of data from an OEM diagnostic system that transmits "trouble" codes to a server. Network Car then compiles real-time reports that are sent to the owner and the dealer. Said Jaime: "We can even do testing for smog on the fly, and we are looking for other types of information to gather and analyze."

Related Links

Calit² Intelligent Transportation and Telematics web page
UCI's Institute of Transportation Studies
UCSD's Computer Vision & Robotics Research
Workshop Announcement