Intelligent Transport Systems - Detroit 2014

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Congress at the Detroit COBO Hall. I have always been fascinated with Intelligent Transportation Systems.  It might be worthwhile to define the term Intelligent Transportation Systems. Intelligent Transportation is in part the technology of vehicle telematics and its integration with road systems architecture. Ultimately, the cooperation of public and private sectors coupled with social and political issues are the very issues that are retarding the progress of Intelligent Transportation Systems. Nonetheless, I was fascinated with the exhibit vendors and the amount of enthusiasm of the conference participants.

Perhaps the most remarkable trend was the sheer number of camera manufacturers that were showcasing the latest optics technology. Some of it was rather unsettling to say the least. Just imagine the odd "Point of Interest" scenarios. I asked one vendor if they were capable of facial recognition or whether or not vendors who sell these cameras have any obligation to public privacy.  Well, this particular vendor answered no to both question.  Regarding the matter of public privacy, the vendor simply stated that he does not worry about social ramifications, he only had time for solving the difficult technical questions associated with cameras (ie optics, light refraction, etc).  Methinks every engineer should always consider the social ramifications of their inventions or work. The advancement of the human condition should always be more than a simple noble pursuit.  Sigh, I digress.

I also noticed that while the keynote speakers were well represented by Detroit automaker CEOs (ie Ford Motor and GM), the Detroit automakers were largely absent elsewhere at the Congress save the ubiquitous automobile display by one OEM. Perhaps this would be due in part the dearth of quasi-public partnerships within the ITS ecosystem? Maybe it is a matter of priorities? Who knows, time will tell.

Though there were several other talks that I would have liked to attend, my time was limited as I still had office commitments. Regardless, the following topics captured my attention -

The drone or UAV phenomenon has been rather fascinating to me. In part because I like the idea of being able to perform surveillance within the confines of property. Moreover, the prospect for ITS is limitless. Consider the following scenario - a chemical waste truck over turns in the middle of an intersection of a well populated community. For whatever reason the vehicle failed to negotiate an overpass, as its payload was roughly twenty inches too high and the payload bed hits the underpass and flips over.  Very nasty accident which has the ability to become a major catastrophe.  The chemical compound is unstable at ambient temps of 70F, so the inert container has been ruptured and this chemical is leaking onto the road.

Legacy ITS systems generally utilize the ubiquitous Variable Messages Signs (VMS), which are networked to show existing road conditions but a certainly not very dynamic.  These blinking visual digital displays will alert motorists to current road conditions, but with very little detail aside from simple road congestion and expect delays.  However, if you are able to leverage UAV data gathered from the chemical spill crash site. Perhaps UAV craft has cameras, sampling apparatus to deliver chemical parts per million(PPM) toxicity information to first responders.  Motorists would also get alerts at the center stack of their instrumentation panels, alerting them of a nasty chemical spill with alternate travel routes to consider. 

Basically the UAV would easily save lives by going into life threatening situations that are simply not feasible for humans.  Moreover, the cost of the hardware used to outfit the UAV are surprisingly low considering the net benefit.

The sexy buzzword of the day was big data and it was well covered at the ITS Congress.
I was interested in the various aspects of the conversation (ie ethics, management, mining techniques). Because I had limited time, I opted for the management and ethics conversation. I figured it would give me a broader scope analysis, but after listening to the panel discussion it became clear that I would have been better served by going to the more technical discussion on Hadoop and Strata.  Data storage is not really as a big a problem as it was just 5-10 years ago. The NSA and other government agencies have already demonstrated this fact. I suppose the more interesting conversation would be the responsible governance of this data.  If the ITS is to flourish the data collected must be made available to all. The privacy concerns are real, but I assert that if you truly are concerned about ethical management of so-called big data, you must make every effort to make it openly available and not solely at the disposal of government agencies and law officials.  I am certain that more discourse is needed in this space as the technologies evolve and the politicians become more educated on the matter.

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    This page contains a single entry by AG published on October 6, 2014 4:15 AM.

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