The 28th ITS World Congress in Los Angeles, CA, officially closed its doors on Thursday, 22 September 2022, with over 400 hours of discussions, demonstrations and networking opportunities. More than 6,000 industry professionals from 64 countries joined this yearly celebration of ITS to experience cutting-edge technologies, educational programming, and demonstrations showcased by industry-leading organisations. Prof. Eric Sampson, Chief Rapporteur, gave the following summary at the Closing of the Congress.

Under the theme ‘Transformation by Transportation’, seven key topics steered the dialogues and debates throughout the week. Digital Infrastructure, a key enabling technology that overlapped with the other topics, looked at “How to do it” – especially managing and using data as well as cybersecurity considerations. This fostered new ideas, including building cyber resilience into the digital network, exporting improvements from highway networks to road works zones, the interaction of Automated Vehicles with level crossings, and safety benefits for connected vehicles through V2X technology.

Equitable and Seamless Mobility covered four major areas: integrated mobility and standardisation; equity, diversity, accessibility and inclusion with a focus on gender challenges and gaps; improving safety and security; and reducing emissions and congestion. Clear improvements were seen across all areas, but there were some puzzling gaps: MaaS and Electric Mobility were less popular than expected, particularly given media interest. In contrast, many new ideas were brought forward, including a mobility wallet for travellers with credits that can be spent for paying road usage fees or to finance trips with alternative modes. For disadvantaged users, the wallet can be partially or wholly subsidised.

Looking back to previous Congresses, including the 27th edition in Hamburg, Intelligent, Connected, and Automated Transportation is the most popular topic accounting for nearly 40% of all activities. Three areas were featured prominently this year: improving safety, developing rural services, and collaborations. New topics included truck automation, where there have been major advances recently with more real-world testing.

Post-COVID Automation was a new topic, not considered a few years ago, but the almost universal drop in public transport use after the pandemic has prompted the questions: How will this trend impact automated travel, which is predominantly a shared travel experience?  How can we enable more cooperative testing and allow multiple participants to examine their technologies in environments that can include interactions between live and virtual components?

Organising for Policy & Governance held an intriguing mix of exploring new approaches to familiar problems and devising ways to understand new problems. Many disruptive technologies have almost become mainstream, thereby creating new challenges for the sector professionals. This emphasises how all stakeholders need to understand how technologies critical to the transformation of transportation can be enabled by effective policy setting at the earliest stages. In many areas we have global skills shortages, not least in diversifying and attracting women into ITS.  However, diversity has a broader span: age, education, disability, and ethnicity. The challenge, in many cases, is that these groups are not available to participate as they are under-represented in the industry.

The Path to Vision Zero focused on the question: ‘How can we work towards eliminating traffic fatalities and severe injuries while increasing safe, healthy and equitable mobility?’. Surprisingly, it was the smallest topic of the Congress, with a focus on urban mobility and little consideration of inter-urban networks. The technical papers presented addressed essentially the same issue – safe urban mobility in a shared-use, multi-modal environment, and the Special Interest Sessions focused on data: crowd-sourced data, how to leverage and analyse the available data or get the right data, access to the data (and tools), and practical applications that allow for improved decision-making.

The topic on Sustainability and Resiliency covered five main areas: Transport operations; Congestion mitigation; Modelling impacts + emissions; Electrification and related technologies; and Cybersecurity. The sessions looked at aspects of improving transportation efficiencies such as ITS for emissions reductions and decarbonisation, Safety improvements, and Signal timing for improved transit performance. Again, many panels and papers discussed developments in cybersecurity to improve resilience with much sharing of best practices, and climate resilience also featured prominently:

  • Optimising energy resources to support EV charging
  • New tools for measuring climate impacts from energy usage and emissions
  • Supporting cities towards meeting goals and regulations for pollutant reduction

Technology from entry to the last mile covered a lot of ground with key building blocks of communications, data, integration, analytics and pilot projects.  There has been massive investment globally in wireless and wired networks to improve ITS infrastructure and enable data movement from the transport network to the cloud and back to the edge.  The future of ITS is the integration of data, and innovative techniques for sharing, processing, integration and management.  Because travellers want solutions that are simple, flexible and give access to multiple mobility offers.  Mobility on Demand and Mobility as a Service are familiar; Demand-responsive transport has the potential to revolutionise public transit, replacing low-performing routes and providing new services where none existed previously.

Freight solutions also continued to develop.  Long-haul freight networks are evolving to streamline the movement of goods and improve efficiency.  To combat multiple deliveries on the same day and to one address but by multiple companies, last mile delivery by modes such as cargo bikes, eScooters or delivery robots with reduced environmental impact has been trialled.

Los Angeles 2022 showed that ITS is at a good place on the road to seamless mobility that is: Accessible; Equitable; Affordable; Resilient; Has zero fatalities; and Has zero emissions. In other words, Mobility that works for everyone – and we have heard how roles have changed. Since last year, we have achieved a lot, but it is far from finished, and some difficult problems remain.  Almost none are technology related – they are about our behaviour and willingness to work together and be flexible. Last year’s policies don’t solve next year’s problems.

We can deliver Transformation by Transportation, but we need to transform our own thinking as well to make it happen.

We hope to see many of you next year at the ITS European Congress in Lisbon.