Traffic management is changing fast. The future is ‘connected systems’ and ‘connected people’. In order to make the right choices concerning smart mobility, it is important for road operators to monitor ITS developments relevant for traffic management. Road operators have to shape the future, whereas at the same time they have to do the daily operation of traffic management for a long period. The combination of connected and not-connected, autonomous and not-autonomous vehicles, will lead to increased complexity in traffic, certainly until 2030. The risk exists that this will negatively influence safety and congestion. Road operators have to prepare themselves for this. Flexibility means that road operators will have to take into account the possibility that some developments will go faster, others might be delayed, and new innovations will appear.
Dutch road operator Rijkswaterstaat developed a so-called Leading Innovation Timeline (LIT) to deal with this. It is a tool to visualize future innovation, more in particular changes in IT systems which are expected to have an impact on traffic management. Once these expected developments are known, Rijkswaterstaat can identify the urgency to take action. Innovations with a relatively high impact in the short term require instant action (research, pilot, new strategy), whereas innovations on the long term and/or with little impact does not (yet) require action. However, in all cases the innovations need to be monitored constantly.
The Dutch Traffic Management Roadmap 2022 is a great example of how the LIT helps provide input for policy and decision makers to define the next steps in traffic management. The LIT helps create awareness of what is happening around us and how fast it will influence traffic management. When relying on the LIT, investments can be made in a timely manner. It also allows road operators to better assess risks of new innovations. However, the impact of techological developments on traffic is largely dependent on de penetration of the technology in the vehicles. In a wider perspective, other innovations like mobility services such as Uber and Snappcar can have a much faster growth and will therefore also impact mobility behaviour. The challenge of road operators is to facilitate the ingrowth of smart mobility with all possible support, while at the same time facilitating conventional traffic with the same safety level.