ITS: improving transport systems for the future mobility society

~ Recent initiatives toward the realization of automated driving ~



 Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is a generic term for the initiatives aiming for solving issues in the traffic field through the utilization of information and communication technology. The ITS development began in the 1980s in Japan, the U.S. and Europe with the primary purpose to reduce the number of traffic congestions and accidents.

 Various ITS developments in Japan include the development of Advanced cruise-assist Highway System(AHS), new traffic management systems, and the system construction for collecting and utilizing traffic information. Professional organizations are established and engaged in these ITS developments. ITS Japan works as a nonprofit organization to promote the ITS development through the collaboration among the government, private enterprises and academic institutions.
 Currently, more than 54.28 million car navigation systems and 36.53million Vehicle Information and Communication System(VICS) onboard units have been shipped in Japan (as of the end of December 2012), and the Electronic Toll Collection system (ETC) devices are installed on more than 53.14 million vehicles or 88.5% of all vehicles on the road (as of March 2013), which makes Japan as the leading country in the ITS development field. (Source: the website of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLITT)).

 The original objective of ITS development is to improve safety, but it has been expanded to cover various factors such as the global warming countermeasures. More recent development efforts are directed to the driving safety support systems with the vehicle control as well as the provision of traffic information as in the ITS Spot Service and DSSS projects, and the highly automated driving system characterized by platooning of trucks aimed at increasing overall fuel economy.

 This report contains the latest progress of the ITS initiatives summarized in the ITS-Japan's figure, "image of the new mobility society" (shown below) and an interview with Professor Sadayuki Tsugawa of Meijo University who has been involved in numerous automated driving projects. The report also introduces the current expansion of information provision service via ITS spots and other infrastructural element investments and the expansion of driving safety support technologies using infrastructure-based information. Furthermore, the latest efforts toward the practical application of the ITS technologies is described including the autonomous driver support technologies based primarily on onboard sensors and current initiatives on automated driving.

 The report also compares Japan's progress with those in Europe and the U.S. In Europe, technical development efforts are  made more actively than in Japan under the support provided by the European Commission as part of EC's Seventh Framework Program. Meanwhile in the United States, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has been conducting the evaluations for the infrastructure-cooperative systems.

 Finally, the report summarizes several issues that need to be cleared for further expansion of ITS, such as cooperative operation of plural systems and non-technical aspects for future diffusion of automated driving.

Related Reports:
The future of car-mounted camera-based systems (Jan. 2013)

1. A Summary of ITS technologies

Technical field Contents Systems Description
Traffic flow control Stoplight control Public Transportation Priority System
Smooth flow of traffics based on traffic light control. Under the actual operation by National Police Agency.
Toll gate control ETC Automated toll collection, installed on more than 53.14 million vehicles (as of March 2013).
Provision of traffic information Car navigation systems Congestion avoidance and route guidance system Route search and guidance responding to the road congestions using information provided by the information collection, analysis and distribution system below. More than 54.28 million units have been shipped (as of December 2012).
Information collection, analysis, and distribution systems VICS Collection and distribution of real-time traffic information. More than 36.53 million units have been shipped (December 2012).
ITS Spot Service 1,600 spots have been installed on national highway networks. The distribution of information covering wider area than VICS.
Vehicle probing system Telematics systems currently-operated by Toyota, Honda, Nissan, etc. respectively.
Driver support Infrastructure-cooperative type Infrastructure-cooperative alert and control system Road obstacle alert using ITS spot information, prevention of intersection collision using information from roadside optical beacons (DSSS), etc.
Inter-vehicle cooperative type Inter-vehicle cooperative alert and control system Support for preventing intersection collision, etc.
Autonomous type FCW/ACC, LDW/LDP, etc. Obstacle detection and avoidance control using cameras, radars, etc.
Automated driving Autonomous driving control Platooning on highways Platooning of trucks (NEDO: Energy-saving ITS, etc.)
Autonomous driving on streets Google Car, etc.
Source: the website of the MLITT
PTPS: Public Transportation Priority System
ETC: Electronic Toll Collection system
VICS: Vehicle Information and Communication System
DSSS: Drivng Safety Support Systems
FCW: Forward Collision Warning
ACC: Adaptive Cruise Control
LDW: Lane Departure Warning
LDP: Lane Departure Prevention
Probing information: Real-time traffic information based on the car's location, speed, etc.
Optical beacon: Transmitters using infrared rays

 Systems with the ITS technologies are classified into three groups; traffic flow control, traffic information provision, and vehicle control. Their development and operation status are outlined below.

 "Traffic flow control" refers to the stoplight control on roads and traffic flow control at toll gates on highways. This group includes the traffic control system currently operated by the National Police Agency to grant the right of way (priority) to the public transportation. Automated toll collection by ETC at toll gates have proven effective in reducing congestions at the gates.

 "Traffic information provision" refers to the provision of traffic information to car navigation systems to ensure safe and efficient route guidance for the drivers. The traffic information is collected from "ITS spots" and other systems stated under the category "Information collection, analysis and distribution systems" in the table above.

 "Vehicle control" is classified under a separate group due to the recent increase in the "platooning" and other new initiatives aiming for the "automated driving." Previous initiatives were mainly for the "driver support" under the category of "infrastructure-cooperative alert and control system.".

 The development status of the ITS systems are explained in details below focusing on the following technologies:
* "Car navigation" showing a steady progress in its route search and guidance function based on the collected traffic information
* "ITS Spot" and "DSSS" information collection, analysis and distribution systems that contribute to improving the quality of traffic information
* "Driver support" systems that have been introduced for practical usage
* "Automated driving systems" under very active research and development efforts for practical application in the near future



2. Development status of main ITS technologies

1) Highly advanced route search and guidance function for car navigation systems (already in use)

Built-in navigation (including PND) Center-based
Carwings, etc.
Statistical traffic information
Traffic congestion ○(Wide area)
Traffic obstacle ○(Wide area)
Traffic accident ○(Wide area)
Road work, restricted traffic ○(Wide area)
New roads (map updates)
Vehicle probing information
Road surface conditions

(Note) "○(Wide area)": Traffic information covering a wider area than VICS

 The route search and guidance technology of early car navigation systems relied on "road and facilities information" stored in the onboard memory or "singularity and statistical traffic information" (see Note 1) analyzed from the cumulative data. After the VICS service was put into use in April 1996, the collected and analyzed real-time traffic and road information was sent to the car-mounted devices via three roadside means (radio wave beacon, optical beacon, FM multiple broadcasting) to improve the precision of route search and guidance.

 Aside from all above, automakers began developing their own telematics systems. For instance, Honda launched its traffic information service, Internavi LINC, in 2003 using vehicle probing information to supplement and strengthen VICS information. Similar services were introduced by Nissan in 2006 (Carwings) and Toyota in 2007(G-book). Today, map data update and various other information services are introduced by different automakers.

 Furthermore, a new service was introduced in 2011 providing traffic and road information using ITS Spot Service that covers a wider area than VICS.

 VICS and other real-time information is often used in the car navigation services that provide route search results sent from the information service center via smartphones that are rapidly becoming popular.

(Note 1) Statistical traffic information: Information statistically analyzed the past traffic jam information based on the day 
 the week, time zones, weather and other factors for use in route search and guidance calculations.


2) ITS Spot Service (in use since 2011)

Outline of ITS Spot Service 
Promoter The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism
Current Status Nationwide service began in January-March 2011 with the
ITS spots installed at 1,600 locations along the highways.
Onboard service Dynamic route guidance (distributes traffic information data over wide areas)
Driving safety support (accident preventive alert)
ETC (the existing ETC service is inherited)
Carrier 5.8GHz DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communication)
Driving safety support Warning at accident-prone locations (end-of-congestion information etc.)
 Warning for obstacles on the road ahead such as the fallen objects
 Visual display of traffic in tunnels


(Source: MLITT website)

 The map shows ITS spot locations installed by the MLITT along national highways. The system sends information about the road condition obtained by roadside units to the car-mounted unit to assist route search and guidance by the onboard car navigation system and provide information to support the driver. The system replaces the conventional ETC service.

 The table below shows the availability of car-mounted units capable of receiving ITS Spot service. Most of them work in conjunction with car navigation systems. Other types of car-mounted units are also available and  provide audio messages or display traffic information on the smartphone rather than on the car navigation screen.


The availability of ITS Spot Service-compatible onboard units (as of the end of March 2013)
Manufacturer's name Standard or
plant option
Dealer's option Speech type
onboard unit
car navigation
Automakers Toyota (Note 1)
Mercedes-Benz (Note 2)
Volkswagen (Note 3)
Audi (Note 4)
Auto parts
Mitsubishi Electric
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries
Denso (Note 5)
Source : ITS Service Promotion Association Organization website
(Note 1) : LS600h, LS460 / GS450h, RS450h, HS250h, Crown Athlete, etc.
(Note 2) : C-Class, CLS-Class, E-Class / A-Class, B-Class, etc.
(Note 3) : Golf R, Scirocco R, Golf Touran, The Beetle Cabriolet, etc.
(Note 4) : A3, TT, R8
(Note 5) : Via smartphones


3) DSSS (in use since 2011)

Outline of DSSS 
Promoter  National Police Agency, Universal Traffic Management System (UTMS)
Current Status  In use in accident-prone intersections in Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture (since July 2011)
Onboard service  Information for stoplights, restricted traffic, road geometry, vehicles and pedestrians
Method  Optical beacon
Onboard unit  Driver alert
Main supportive alerts  Preventive support for intersection collision, contact with bicycle, overlooking stoplights, overlooking stop signs, rear-end collision, collision on turns, overlooking crossing pedestrians

 The DSSS is a driving safety support system using an optical beacon which is used to transmit traffic information to car navigation systems. It has been deployed in six prefectures (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Tochigi, Saitama, Aichi, Hiroshima) and is to be deployed in other prefectures in the future.

The table below shows the progress of DSSS service and equipment development among automakers.

Automakers DSSS-compatible models
Existing cars Toyota  Crown, Camry, Prius, Alphard, Estima, etc.
 DSSS-compatible car navigation available on more than 50 models
Nissan  Fuga, Skyline, Dualis, Elgrand, Serena, Note, etc.
 DSSS-compatible car navigation available on more than 17 models
Test car development Honda  Taking part in demonstration tests as part of on-going technical development


4) Driver support systems (commercialized or being developed)

Method of information collection


Road-to-vehicle communication Inter-vehicle communication
DSSS ITS spots
Cooperative type Intersection collision prevention
Prevention of collision on turns
Prevention of overlooking pedestrian crossing, etc.
Obstacle alert on highways
Information on
accident-prone areas
Provision of visual information
Intersection collision prevention
Merging support, etc.


Cameras, millimeter-wave radar, laser radar, etc.
Autonomous type FCW/ACC
collision-avoidance steering, etc.
LKS: Lane Keep Support
Road-to-vehicle communication: Communication between roadside and onboard devices
Inter-vehicles communication: Communication among own car and other cars

 Two types of driver support systems (cooperative, autonomous) are being developed.

 Among the "cooperative" types are the "infrastructure-cooperative" systems that apply road-to-vehicle communication (5.8GHz) and "inter-vehicles cooperative" systems that apply inter-vehicle communication (700MHz). The "infrastructure-cooperative" type systems have been realized in DSSS for general roads and the ITS Spot System for highways (see Section 2-2) and 2-3) above). Driver support systems using inter-vehicles communication are still in the research and development stage today (see Note).

 The "autonomous" type system uses cameras, radar and other car-mounted sensors to detect the car's driving environments and support the driver accordingly. Various types of "autonomous" driver support systems are becoming increasingly available on stock cars. The on-going and new research and development efforts in sensor, control and actuator technologies are expected to make more advanced systems available in the near future (see MarkLines technical report No. 1132 "The future of car-mounted camera-based systems" January 16, 2013).

 (Note) Automakers, auto parts suppliers, and communication companies took part in the "Study Group on the Advancement of ITS Radio Systems" that was organized by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications from 2008 to 2009. They exchanged views on the standardization of the "700MHz-band Intelligent Transport System" in 2012. Toyota declared its commitment to "develop a safe-driving support system using inter-vehicles communications," in a lecture during the 4th Automotive Telecommunication Technology Tokyo held in March 2013.


5) Automated driving systems (under development)

 Automated driving systems are developed separately in Japan, the United States and Europe. These systems may be divided roughly into two types:
* Platooning of trucks and other commercial vehicles aimed at increased fuel economy
* Automated driving of passenger cars in cities
(Their ultimate objectives vary from the realization of collision-free vehicles to increased convenience in parking, greater social participation of the handicapped and the aged, etc.)

 These development efforts may be classified as shown below from the viewpoint of detection technologies of driving environments.

Classification of driving
environment detection
Camera Radar 360° laser
radar(Note 3)
GPS Map Inter-vehicles
Obstacle detection (Note 1)
Own vehicle positioning (Note 1) (Note 1) (Note 1)
Recognition of conditions of other vehicles (Note 2)
Note 1: Technology in which 360° laser radar is used to create a map of the local area for comparing positions estimated by GPS and the map to establish the own vehicle's location. This technique is known as SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping).
Note 2: Vehicles dynamic information and operational information are shared among the vehicles.
Note 3: Supplied nearly exclusively by Velodyne Lidar Inc., a corporation in California, the US.

 The key technology addressing automated driving is the one that will increase the accuracy of detecting the vehicle's driving environment. Efforts are under way to increase the accuracy to the same level as that of the human perception by combining several means of detection.


Automated truck platooning (NEDO: Energy ITS Project, development completed)
Energy ITS Project  A NEDO project for FY2008-FY2012
 Project led by Prof. Sadayuki Tsugawa, Meijo University
Achieved performance  Platooned travel of four trucks (3 heavy-duty trucks and 1 light-duty truck)
 At travel speed of 80km/h with a 4m distance between trucks
Energy saving effect (anticipated value)  15% and higher
Lane marker detection  Duplication using camera and laser radar
Obstacle detection Duplication using millimeter-wave radar and laser radar
Inter-vehicles distance detection
Inter-vehicles distance control technology  Inter-vehicles communication (5.8GHz, 20ms cycle) is used to share the inter-vehicles distance, speed and acceleration.
 The inter-vehicles distance is controlled by using speed control model of each vehicle.
Truck manufacturers  Isuzu Motors, Hino Motors, Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus, UD Trucks
Travel control  Daido Signal
Positional perception  Mitsubishi Electric, NEC
Driving environmental condition recognition  Nissan Motor, Denso, NEC
Inter-vehicle communication technologies  Oki Electric, Mitsubishi Electric, NEC
Universities  Nihon University, Kobe University, Keio University, Tokyo University, Hirosaki University, Kanazawa University, Tokyo Institute of Technology
Research organizations  Japan Automobile Research Institute (JARI), National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST)


(NEDO Press Release)

 The Energy ITS Project prepared four CACC (Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control) experimental vehicles using heavy-duty trucks fabricated by leading truck manufacturers in Japan. The trucks featured inter-vehicles distance control using inter-vehicles communications and frontal obstacle detection capability. A platooning run was demonstrated using the special trucks to develop more universal technologies toward the early realization of automated truck platooning. (Published in February 2013)


 Autonomous driving (Self-Driving Car by Google)
Self-Driving Car (Google)
Achieved performance Automated driving on public roads in cities
Own vehicle positioning Combination of mapping using 360° laser radar and establishing own position based on GPS and road maps.
Obstacle detection 360° laser radar
Front-facing radar (x3) and rear-facing radar (x1)
Front-mounted camera
Signal detection Front-mounted camera

(Source: Google Press Release)

 A self-driving car (driverless car) was developed by a group of automated driving technology researchers from Stanford University. The group has been granted an approval to run tests on public roads in three states in the U.S. where the driverless car is being tested at present. Toyota announced its driverless car reportedly with the similar system configuration as Google's at the Consumer Electronics Show held in North America in January 2013.(Note: Toyota's experimental car is equipped with 360°laser radar along with plural cameras and plural millimeter-wave radar units.)

 The development stages of automated driving vehicles among Google, Toyota and other manufacturers, presented below, may be grouped into two types; development efforts aimed at driving on public roads and those aimed at early realization through an extension of existing sensor technologies although the driving scene may be restricted to the highways.

Manufacturer Scene Features Current status
Google Public road Breakthrough in ambient environmental detection technology is the key challenge  Tests on public roads are under way in three states (Nevada, Florida, California) in the US.
Toyota  Start of public road test announced in the state of Michigan.
Audi  Start of public road test announced in the state of Nevada.
Bosch  Public road tests planned for Europe
GM Highway Achievable by extension of existing sensor technologies  Commercialization in 2017 has been asserted (limited to highways).
VW  Being tested under "HAVE-it," the EU project.
BMW  Tests completed over 10,000km on Autobahn.
Continental  Evaluation tests completed in Arizona, US.
Nissan Parking  Demonstration of automated parking space detection and automated parking maneuver.



3. Comparison of conditions in Japan, US, and Europe

 The development and commercial applications of ITS services somewhat vary among Japan, US and Europe.

Japan * More advanced than other countries in terms of the provision of traffic information and infrastructure-cooperative driver support.
* Diffusion of VICS and ETC services
* Start of operation of ITS Spot and DSSS services
* Barriers among government agencies must be eliminated and private and government data must be integrated to make systems operation easier to use.
* Development of automated driving has been completed in the form of truck platooning.
* "Next-generation ITS Workshop" has been organized by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism to identify non-technical challenges such as regulations and social acceptability of automated driving.
Europe * Most active and ambitious of the three regions in research and development initiatives with the support of the European Commission.
* Far more advanced than Japan in terms of initiatives for automated driving and platooning, including studies on non-technical aspects through HAVE-it and SARTRE projects.
* Commercial application of road-to-vehicle communications and other systems that require infrastructural development is rather slow because of technical originality of individual countries.
* Field tests have started regarding eCall and road-to-vehicle communications systems.
The US * Least active among the three areas (state-to-state difference in the degree of interests in ITS).
* The government (DOT) activities are concerned primarily with the effectiveness and acceptability evaluation of road-to-vehicle and inter-vehicles communications systems.
Safety Pilot: The result of evaluation in 2013 will determine whether the use of 5.9GHz DSRC will continue or not.
* The competition among private sectors (including the involvement of universities) has started in developing automated driving systems.
* Starting with Google's Self-Driving Car test, General Motors and Toyota of North America have announced the start of respective road tests.


HAVE-it Highly Automated Vehicles for Intelligent Transport Project
Project period: 2008 - 2011
Research and development in truck platooning on public roads and advanced driver support for passenger cars in highways (speed control, lane control)
Main participating companies: VW, Volvo, Continental
SARTRE Safe Road Trains for the Environment Project
Project period: 2009 - 2012
Realization of vehicle trains on trunk roads (lead vehicle: truck, followers: 3 passenger cars)
Main participating companies: Ricardo (a British automotive technical research institute), Volvo
Safety Pilot Validation program by US. Department of Transportation (DOT) regarding Connected Vehicle Technology



4. Outlook of future development and challenges

 Trends at the national and the automaker's levels that indicate the direction of future development are introduced below.

Country, automakers Technical area Activities
Country Highway Industry Development Organization Telematics Drive-through demonstration tests using a car-mounted ITS device (in March 2012)
  * Trial for market penetration of ITS spot services was conducted
     at McDonalds' in Tsukuba Science City
Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Autonomous driving Roadmap to the realization of autonomous driving (in March 2012)
  * Realization targeted for the start of 2020
Automaker Toyota Telematics Greater use of car navigation systems using road-to-vehicle communication
  * Available on more than 50 models since 2011
Greater scope of congestion mitigation technologies
  * Demonstration test on a traffic flow simulator in Beijing
     announced in 2013
Driver support systems Road-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-vehicle communication technologies using 760MHz band (in November 2012)
  * Road-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-vehicle communications realized using a single car-mounted device
  * Improved detection of opposing vehicles and pedestrians in support of collision prevention
Autonomous driving Autonomous driving tests on public roads in the United States (announced in January 2013)
Honda Telematics Plan to spread telematics to more than 60 countries (announced in March 2013)
  * Information center constructed based on the "Internavi"
  * Smartphone applications developed in Japan
Functional expansion of "Internavi" service
  * "Safety map" showing locations of frequent sharp braking (in March 2013)
  * "design our transportation story (dots)" project started to enhance social functionality of "Internavi" (in December 2011)
Congestion detection technology was developed and tested on public roads with the purpose of minimizing congestion (in April 2012)
  * Congestion mitigation and  fuel economy improvement verified in a public road test in Indonesia (in March 2013)
Nissan Telematics Greater availability of car navigation systems capable of road-to-vehicle communications
  * Available on 17 models since 2009
Demonstration of traffic dispersion effect from dynamic route guidance
  * Large-scale 8-month long demonstration test conducted in Beijing with 12,000 drivers (in December 2011)
Autonomous driving Autonomous driving demonstrated in a parking lot (in October 2012, test vehicle name: NSC2015)
Research base was established in the United States (in February 2013)
  * Fields of study: Autonomous vehicles, vehicles connected to external environments

 The above activities suggest continued progress in various aspects of ITS technologies as predicted below along with a number of challenges that must be tackled.

Predictions Needs
Traffic flow control Traffic flow smoothing control by integrated traffic signal control over wide areas Diffusion of compatible car-mounted devices
Expansion of the added value to ETC function at toll gates Cooperation among contents providers and integration of operation
Provision of traffic information Provision of real-time information covering wider areas
  * Greater diversity in selecting routes (priority on fuel economy, time, ride comfort, etc.)
Greater cooperation among means of information collection
  * Integration of probing information, police and road administrator's data, etc.
Expanded provision of safe driving supportive information Maintenance of roadside facilities, integration of operation among information providers
* Increased reliability, real-time quality
Spec unification of car-mounted devices
Driver support Expanded availability of autonomous driving support systems Cost reduction of driving environmental detection sensors
More complementary function of autonomous driving support systems by road-to-vehicle and inter-vehicle communications Increased reliability and real-time quality of information
Diffusion of compatible car-mounted devices (lower costs, contents diversification)
Integration and cost reduction of roads-to-vehicles and inter-vehicles communication equipment
Automated driving Platooning of commercial vehicles, expansion of automated driving (auto pilot) Road infrastructural development (provision of roads dedicated to automated driving, etc.)
Further progress of ergonomic studies such as driver's response to automated driving functions
Development of legal systems addressing liability issues of accidents
Other Greater collaboration of several systems enabling seamless services (integration of information transmission contents and probing information on roads and highways, etc.) Cooperation among government agencies
Information disclosure and cooperation among automakers
Collaboration and cooperation in ITS technologies and development of road environments
System development and operation assuming mixed environments of cars with and those without compatible devices

 Although all systems are likely to keep developing, they will face a common challenge of demands among system administrators for the integration of data collection, processing and distribution. Such demands will include mutual distribution of data among government agencies and sharing of data formats. Similarly, private sectors will be asked to make their data available to others toward mutual benefit from shared information. As the distributed data is used in support of drivers, reliability of data will be a critical issue. Consequently, a special system must be developed to ensure timely renewal of data and equipment maintenance.

 Further advance of driver support and automated driving will require the development of automated driving technologies as well as that of ergonomic studies such as the effects on the driver's behavior of automated driving mode, non-automated driving mode and switching from a mode to the other. Aside from technical progress, challenges in non-technical aspects should also be tackled including the liability issues of accidents and fermentation of social acceptability. In this regard, application of driver support and automated driving functions is likely to take place faster with commercial vehicles than with passenger cars. This prediction is based on the assumption that commercial vehicles are driven by professional drivers and that the cost recovery of ITS services is more easily estimated by the fleet operator of commercial vehicles than by private drivers.

 The 20th ITS World Congress is to be held in Tokyo in October 2013 with 8,000 participants from 60 countries to discuss the present and future development and commercial application of ITS technologies. As the host country of the congress, Japan is to showcase the next-generation cooperative system (ITS Green Safety), advanced provision of information (complementary use of next-generation VICS and ITS spot, etc.) and the futuristic ITS technologies such as automated driving and safe driving support. The upcoming event is expected to reveal the future direction of ITS as well as challenges that need to be tackled.

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