The ITS United Kingdom Carbon Working Group was founded in 2009 with a remit to promote the use of Intelligent Transport Systems to reduce CO2 emissions from road transport.  It is led by Keith McCabe of Atkins and Ian Routledge of the Ian Routledge Consultancy.

Transport accounts for 23% of CO2 emissions in the UK. Of this 23% 92% comes from road transport making Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) interventions likely to be effective in reducing emissions.  

The Carbon Working Group recently held a workshop at Newcastle University. The workshop described and discussed in detail several ITS applications which have already contributed to proven CO2   reductions or have a significant potential to do so:-

Already used:

  • Internet based maps to guide freight drivers accurately
  • Managed motorways: benefits of reduced emissions due to smoother traffic flow of the removal of the need for additional road building (a carbon intensive activity) and of better design of road side equipment reducing energy consumption.
  • Systems to support cycling and walking
  • Adaptive signal control to reduce braking acceleration and idling
  • Information services to support travel planning – for towns workplaces other activity centres and individuals
  • Road user charging
  • Point to point speed enforcement which smoothes traffic flows

Ready or close to ready for implementation:

  • Infrastructure to support the use of low carbon vehicles such as mapping and navigation for charging points
  • Systems to support eco-driving

Using ITS for climate change adaption is also important. Recent severe weather events have proven the need for resilient transport networks and effective and fast evacuation procedures both of which can be assisted by ITS.

Many technologies with the potential to aid carbon reduction in transport will be more effective and deliver better value for money if proper attention is paid to standardisation. It is essential for the UK to play an active part in the international standardisation process for items such as EV charging point technology and traffic management systems technology. This will benefit customers through lower prices suppliers through larger markets and users by the convenience of having systems work nationally and cross-border.  

ITS has a supporting not a starring role to play in reducing the carbon footprint of UK transport. Any serious positive impact will have to be delivered by changes in land use planning fuel technology modal shift from private cars to public transport cycling or walking and more efficient use of freight vehicles. ITS can contribute significantly to all of these and in many cases already does so.

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Original Publication Date: Thu 16 Sep 2010