We had an interesting and far-ranging discussion to open ATSSA’s Midyear ITS Council meeting in Kansas City this past Wednesday. It began as a conversation about our place in V2I but quickly became much more.
First I must be honest and tell you I became bored with this subject years ago. At that time we had talked work zone ITS and DSRC (Dedicated Short Range Communications) to death. It was like a song you hear on the radio. The first time it’s kind of fun and catchy. But it isn’t long before you are changing the channel as soon as you hear the opening chords.
Suddenly we are hearing those familiar notes once again but from an entirely new source. That is due in large part to a planned and very well-orchestrated outreach from the two main groups hoping to deliver this information in the near future. One group backs the 5.9 GHz radio network model that would deliver vital information through permanent roadside infrastructure to vehicles passing by. The other group believes in the Google model of wireless communications between vehicles and from those vehicles to the web.
This battle is far from over. Just this past week the feds extended the time this radio band will be protected and held open almost exclusively for transportation related communications.
No one knows who will win this battle. It may be one or the other or some combination of both. Only time will tell. But does the subject of who will win really matter to work zone ITS practitioners?
The question for us is the same either way. How do we help that winner to understand work zones, incident response and special events management? When the location of the road changes, or when the number of lanes changes, or when the road is closed temporarily, how will this new digitized world deal with it?
It must be instant. It must be accurate. And it must accommodate the ever-changing and adapting world of work zone traffic control.We understand this. But the V2I community does not. Worse yet, most of them think they do understand it perfectly and therefore do not need our help.
I had an interesting discussion on LinkedIn recently. I made the statement that work zone ITS practitioners had to be involved. Someone wrote back saying that work zone contractors were unprofessional, undependable and not up to job. He used the term “flakes”. Most of the ITS industry is not this blunt. But I believe the attitude expressed is held by a majority of the permanent ITS community. They don’t know what they don’t know. They believe their system and corridor approaches tell them all they need to know for work zones.
This is our task going forward. We must educate these disparate and closed groups. We must help them understand the unique demands of work zones and other temporary disruptions. And we must win control of that switch that tells road users that the east bound fast lane was just closed and traffic is slowing as a result.