What are intelligent transport systems?

Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) is an umbrella term meaning connected, two-way information and communications technologies that boost road, rail, air or sea transport efficiency, safety, and sustainability. ITS helps manage traffic flows, optimise routes, and gives drivers and passengers real-time information.

It sits within a larger concept – smart transport technologies, also known as smart mobility. As a broader term, smart transport covers any technology used to improve transportation. You can read about a recently completed iMOVE project, A Smart Transport Technology Roadmap for Perth, for insights.

A subset of ITS is an Integrated Transport(ation) System. It describes a high-level system that integrates many transportation modes and physical infrastructure. Integrated Transportation Systems are highly connected, easing the transfers between modes, which usually leads to fewer private cars on the road. Typical technologies that consumers would know from Integrated Transport Systems include smart cards, bike-sharing systems, and park-and-ride facilities.

ITS won’t only exist when all vehicles on the road are autonomous, or driverless. Indeed, we’ve been enjoying a range of ITS technologies for the past two decades. Currently, the latest cars are reportedly at levels 2 to 3 of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ official taxonomy for driving automation systems. It comprises seven levels – from zero to six – with the first being no driving automation and six fully autonomous. Automated vehicles do venture out of urban areas, and this as area of interest and possibilities should grow with the July 2023 announcement of the Training Centre for Automated Vehicles in Rural and Remote Regions.

Panning back to the globe, the market for ITS should hit $33.18 billion in 2023, and jump to more than $50 billion in 2027, according to the Intelligent Transport System Global Market Report. It includes systems used in roadways, railways, and airways. China, Japan, and South Korea are leaders in the roadways segment of ITS.

ITS vs Cooperative intelligent transport systems (C-ITS)

Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) allow vehicles, including semi or fully-autonomous ones, to directly communicate in real time with:

  • Each other;
  • Nearby road users, such as pedestrians;
  • Roadside infrastructure; and
  • Central data management systems that road managers or vehicle manufacturers run, for example.

Rather than having fragmented transport modes, a C-ITS-enabled set-up is the basis for a suite of technologies that create a holistic transport ecosystem. The key technology is the Internet of Things (IoT), which connects all the transport parts and modes. Hence, C-ITS is even safer, more efficient, and sustainable than the generic ITS. C-ITS improves the flow of information to human and automated decision makers in our road network.

Examples of C-ITS include connected vehicles, platooning (where vehicles travel in a convoy), cooperative braking, and even forewarning about a road hazard over a crest or around a bend on the road. C-ITS adds predictive analytics to the mix.

ITS is the umbrella term, and C-ITS is a subset.

ITS and road safety

ITS offers an opportunity to address road safety across the globe. About 1.3 million people die each year due to road traffic crashes, says the World Health Organization (WHO). Vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, account for more than half of those deaths. And there’s an economic cost. On average road traffic crashes cost countries 3% of their gross domestic product. WHO is part-way through implementing a Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-2030.

Future of intelligent transport systems

Globally, vehicles are replaced on average every 13 years. Extrapolating from that means we’re about 13 years away from ITS technologies to be commonplace. But that assumes they’re ready to switch on now whereas that tech is still emerging and developing. There’s also a transition period, not a flick of a switch to a new ITS.

Despite the swag of iMOVE and other organisations’ projects underway, it does seem like early days for a holistic transport ecosystem, or C-ITS, to exist closer to home. The Australian government has shown leadership in releasing its five draft principles for a national approach to C-ITS in early 2023. The key areas are national consistency, international alignment, market readiness, plus privacy and security. You can find out what iMOVE said about them in Response to Draft Principles for a National approach to Co-operative Intelligent Transport Systems (C-ITS) in Australia. As of September 2023, the Federal Government is considering submissions to its public consultation process.

iMOVE intelligent transport systems projects

iMOVE, along with its partners, is active in carrying out R&D to advance intelligent transport systems in Australia.

Please find below the three latest intelligent transport systems projects. Or click to view all iMOVE’s intelligent transport systems projects.


Intelligent transport systems PhD projects

In addition to iMOVE and its partners’ ITS projects listed above, as part of our Industry PhD Program businesses, universities and PhD students work on an agreed topic over a three-year period.

These are the three most recent PhD projects that have been undertaken on the topic of intelligent transport systems. Click to view all iMOVE’s intelligent transport systems PhD projects.


Intelligent transport systems PhD articles

In addition to projects, iMOVE also publishes articles, thoughtpieces, case studies, etc. that cover the many issues and solutions around intelligent transport systems.

Below are the three most recent articles. Or click to view all iMOVE’s intelligent transport systems articles.