Looking at the current development of cooperative systems in the USA

By Carla Coppola

With a  population of 309 million 841 vehicles for every 1.000 inhabitants and 18690000 barrels of oil per day the USA confirms its status as second most polluting country in the world after having been the leader until China overtook it in 2007. 

According to a study in 2009 traffic congestion in the USA increased by 63% over the past 10 years costing the country almost $87.2 billion. Despite declining traffic volumes it’s estimated that US citizens waste more than 110000m3 of fuel and 4.2 billion hours annually in traffic jams equivalent to one full work week per traveller.

USA Stats

– 309 million inhabitants – 841 vehicles per 1 000 inhabitants – 32 885 road fatalities in 2010 – 10.6 deaths per 100 000



The US is also in the top 10 of vehicle manufacturers with a total of 8653560 units (including 2966133 cars) produced in 2011 up 115% compared to the previous year. Also General Motors ranked as top vehicle manufacturer globally with a total of 9146340 vehicles (of which 6867465 cars) produced in 2011

Vehicle safety is also a big concern in the USA: in 201032885 people died in vehicle accidents nearly 3% fewer than the previous year. These figures remain amongst the highest in the world per head of population. 

No wonder the US Department of Transport (DoT) is looking at new solutions to improve safety environmental impact and mobility. In 2009 the DoT released its Intelligent Transport Systems Strategic Research Plan covering the period of 2010-2014. The Plan foresees funding of $100million per year and includes research topics such as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications for safety; real time data capture and management; and applications for the environment within the AERIS programme (Applications for the Environment: Real-Time Information Synthesis. 

With an investment of $1.93 million the AERIS research programme works on generating and acquiring real-time transport data relevant to the environment and using them to support users and operators in greener transport choices. The AERIS programme is working closely with the V2V and V2I communications research activities to define how connected vehicle data and applications can contribute to mitigating carbon emissions.

Traffic congestion in the USA increased by 63% over the past 10 years

The US DoT priorities seem to align well with those of the European Union. This is why in 2009 the EU – represented by the European Commission DG CONNECT – and the US DoT signed an Implementing Agreement “to develop coordinated research programmes specifically focusing on cooperative vehicle systems”; followed by a joint declaration of intent on Research Cooperation in Cooperative Systems published as “International Deployment of Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems“. The goal behind this document is the harmonisation of standards and data in order to have a smother exchange of information. According to Paul Kompfner Head of Sector at ERTICO this is a very important point: “it would be a problem if standards in the two regions were redundant or contradictory “. 

Already there are important differences between regions for example in the allocation and use of radio spectrum. Therefore one of the working groups established by this cooperation aims specifically to harmonise key message sets for cooperative ITS between the USA and Europe: the European CAM (Cooperative Awareness Message) developed by ETSI and the American BSM (Basic Safety Message). The result of this cooperation was demonstrated last October at the ITS World Congress in Vienna where two vehicles used a core harmonised safety message to exchange safety information. Why is this important? According to Mr Kompfner this would benefit vehicle manufacturers as they would be able to supply the same product in different markets. Drivers and travellers would also gain from the universal availability of cooperative ITS applications that worked in the same way for users around the globe.

Harmonisation also leads to improved safety and sustainability. With over 30000 fatalities in 2010 the USA is collaborating with Europe to harmonise safety applications such as collision avoidance and traffic signal violation warning. The US DoT Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA) is focusing its current research on vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) safety applications. V2V systems can sense potential threats and hazards – with a 360 degree awareness of the position of other vehicles – and can calculate the risk of a collision warn the driver in time and take preventive actions to avoid or mitigate crashes. Applications focusing on critical crash scenarios such as emergency brake light warning blind spot warning lane change warning and forward collision warning have already been developed and demonstrated.

Similarly vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications deployment on a minimum level of infrastructure will provide the maximum level of safety and mobility benefits enabling to reduce risks by 12% that are not considered by V2V communications alone. Therefore V2I communications for safety is a key technology in the DoT’s Connected Vehicles Programme. Typical safety applications that could be deployed are related to intersection safety and speed management including red light violation warning and curve speed warning alerting the driver to slow down if approaching a curve too fast. But V2I communications can also significantly improve mobility and mitigate environmental impacts by reducing delays and congestion or helping commercial vehicle drivers to identify safe areas for parking. 

The EU-USA cooperation is embodied in a joint EU-US Task Force. One of its working groups on safety applications is working intensively to harmonise the over-the-air data and communication interfaces; the result should “reduce costs for development of cooperative safety systems and accelerate deployment by enabling the use of common vehicle hardware and firmware in both regions”. To support the European input to the joint work the EU co-funded project COMeSafety2 assists with standards harmonisation with the definition of cooperative ITS architecture and with cooperative ITS deployment enablers. COMeSafety2 also assists with a joint forum to exchange tools and methodologies and with creating common specifications for a set of compatible applications. 

If the USA puts much emphasis on safety the EU invests strongly in sustainability. In the context of cooperative ITS sustainable systems try to reduce the impact of vehicles on the environment through technologies to influence transport network management and driver behaviour. V2V and V2I systems in particular help to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions by informing drivers and traffic managers of traffic jams or incidents at intersections for example. The EU is co-sponsoring development of cooperative systems for more sustainable and efficient transports e.g. with the project eCoMove. This 3-year project is developing core technologies and applications based on V2V and V2I communications where a vehicle’s eco-relevant data can be shared in real time with other vehicles and traffic networks to support fuel-efficient driving behaviour and traffic management. Together eCoMove and the AERIS research programme underpin the EU-US cooperation in the field of cooperative safety and sustainability applications. 

Promoting international cooperation on sustainability the ECOSTAND project links activities in the European Union Japan and the United States towards a common assessment methodology to determine the impacts of ITS on energy efficiency and CO2 emissions. This January ECOSTAND organised a webinar asking the simple question: do we still need to worry about emissions? According to Marcia Pincus AERIS Programme Manager environment is an important part of connected vehicle research in the USA where the transport sector accounts for 28% of GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions and 70% of US oil consumption; light vehicles and heavy trucks are the greatest fuel users with respectively 58% and 19% of the total consumption. 

Cooperative systems cooperation has grown deeper and stronger over the past few years

The AERIS research looks at what kind of data from vehicles are relevant for environment applications and which multimodal applications/strategies are now or potentially available and finally what are their expected benefits. Lastly but very importantly the AERIS programme is investigating if there is need of a “Basic Environmental Message” similar to the safety message set (BSM-CAM) and how these data can be transmitted effectively how often and among which actors for a sustainability application to be effective.

Cooperative systems cooperation has grown deeper and stronger over the past few years but what is coming next? According to Mr Kompfner the next step will be a focus on deployment; “some applications and technologies are already available; the European project FREILOT for instance is a pilot deployment of a cooperative traffic signal priority system for heavy lorries in order to reduce emissions”. Japan as Mr Kompfner explains is quite advanced; thanks to the “ITS Spot” programme where 1600 cooperative ITS roadside units have been installed on motorways over the country to cover high risk areas. These ITS spots communicate to the car navigation system information about traffic congestion or warnings of crashed vehicles blocking a blind curve to warn the driver in advance and reduce collisions. A concrete example of the achievements of ITS Spot programme is the drastic reduction by 60% of collisions at the Sangubashi Curve in Tokyo

The USA is currently running a pre-deployment pilot of these services at intersections. In August 2012 the DoT announced the first test of connected vehicle technology in a real environment in Ann Arbor Michigan. The test site uses 3000 cars trucks and buses equipped with wireless communications devices that communicate to each other and to the infrastructure. The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) has equipped vehicles driving every day on streets and highways with devices that allow to send receive and translate data as well as warning other equipped vehicles of hazards and threats. This year in May UMTRI will also organise the first annual Global Symposium on Connected Vehicles and Infrastructure. The symposium will look at the progresses in connectivity between road users and road infrastructure (V2I). All modes of transport (including cars freight vehicles motorcycles) as well as vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) and intersecting modes (e.g. rail) will be incorporated.

What seemed once to be an engineer’s fantasy is slowly becoming real and the safety pilot in Ann Arbor represents the largest demonstration of the connected mobility of the future.

European projects working on international cooperation

V2V and V2I communications harmonisation of standards: COMeSafety2

V2V and V2I safety applications: DRIVE C2X and COMPASS4D

V2V and V2I energy efficiency application: ECOMOVE

ITS for Energy Efficiency: ECOSTAND project

Real time traffic information: TISA 

Link to original Article


Original Publication Date:Mon 21 Jan 2013