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Essential Technologies for Intelligent Transportation Systems

Communications to Support ITS Technologies Today and Tomorrow

A recent survey showed that 65% of freeway authorities, 54% of arterial authorities, and 49% of transit authorities are actively planning or deploying ITS technologies, most centered on signal-based applications, such as Emergency Vehicle Pre-emption or Intelligent Traffic Signals. Authorities are also interested in data apps that collect, transmit, analyze, and report data like location of potholes, vehicle behavior, and real-time traffic information—data that help them maintain assets and better understand what’s happening on their roads and why.

By a large margin, transportation authorities are building or upgrading their communications networks as the primary ITS readiness activity. About 61% of freeway, 52% of arterial, and 29% of transit authorities are deliberating over wireless communications options, backhaul technologies, and the smart devices needed to make it all work. This is time well spent because an integrated, scalable, and well-planned network is the only way to ensure value from existing and future smart technologies and apps. This is especially true for transportation authorities whose systems are large and multifaceted with numerous transactions and endpoints.

To get started, a transportation authority may conduct a radio frequency study or a fiber routing study. When reasonable, they deploy baseline communications and add capabilities as technologies mature. Though the planning horizon may extend months and even years, Black & Veatch ensures that each planning decision made now supports the future state. The transportation authority will avoid repetitive and redundant investments, gain efficiencies of scale, and achieve an optimal configuration of network and ITS technologies. Through future-proofed network design, transportation systems will be able to connect seamlessly with other transportation networks and smart cities as they become more connected.

There are many ITS technologies that improve citizen safety and the motorist experience, but they all operate on a foundation of advanced communications that includes fiber networks, wireless networks, and information technology. The foundation is composed of physical and logical layers deployed to support applications that provide access, data, and control for thousands to millions of IoT devices such as sensors or cameras. These layers must be organized and standardized to ensure ITS is:

  • Scalable over time
  • Interoperable with different devices and vendors
  • Meshes with legacy equipment
  • Secure
  • Manageable
  • Reliable
  • Cost-effective
  • Flexible to support future applications and technology evolutions

Fiber Networks

Fiber networks in the U.S. have grown remarkably—up 17% in 2019. Here’s why: fiber’s expansive bandwidth supports widespread connectivity and fronthaul and backhaul from the networks’ edge to the core. It supports a range of apps and technologies with nearly unlimited data capacity, and scales alongside future needs and capabilities, like C-V2X and 5G use cases. Once fiber is in place, the network can reach exponentially higher speeds with straightforward radio equipment additions.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority (THEA) ran a CV performance pilot and estimated the amount of transmitted data. They selected a wireless plan with 5 gigabytes per month at the cost of $35 a month for each roadside unit (RSU). But data needs increased as the deployed onboard units (OBU) became saturated; they increased the plan to 20 gigabytes at the cost of $100 a month for each RSU. This increased the total cellular cost for the RSUs to $4,500 a month. As a result, THEA is evaluating when and where they could install fiber to mitigate the cost of wireless communications, and as a best practice, they recommend using fiber where possible.

Recently, Black & Veatch helped the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission (PTC) deploy a 220-mile fiber optic network along their turnpike. The project supports ITS and future CAV capabilities, positioning PTC to meet its future communication needs. PTC’s high-capacity network also includes extra fiber, opening opportunities for them to generate future revenue by leasing the infrastructure to outside organizations seeking highspeed broadband.

"Amping up data capabilities on the PA Turnpike is necessary to prepare for AET and intelligent transportation and CAV systems. Fiber optic infrastructure is an essential element."

- Neil Raup, Manager of Total Reconstruction Programs for the PA Turnpike

Wireless Networks

Radio Frequency

Vehicle-to-everything (V2X) connectivity will allocate wireless communications for vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication, so the motorist safely interacts with the driving environment. In ITS, anything that interferes with this V2X link will limit applications, like CAV ability to perceive and react to road hazards. Radios are deployed in vehicles and in roadside units (RSU) to provide V2V, vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I), and infrastructure-tovehicle (IV2) communications. A certificate management arrangement issues new certificates to each radio at regular intervals to secure the system.

C-V2X uses long-term evolution (LTE) and leverages the same technology used by nearly all cell phones. Currently, C-V2X is based on 4G LTE technology—LTEV2X is available—and has a forward-compatible path to 5G. The 3GPP specifications related to the LTE-V2X evolution are published, and multiple chip vendors have developed LTE-V2X solutions. Interoperability testing began in August 2018, and the entire industry is involved—from test equipment suppliers to global certification bodies.

DSRC, a forerunner to C-V2X, had 75 megahertz in the 5.8-5.9 GHz band as designated spectrum. In November 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to assign the DSRC spectrum for the C-V2X technology instead. The FCC ruling allocates the lower 45 MHz of the band for unlicensed use and designates the upper 30 MHz for ITS using C-V2X technology. It is unknown whether the FCC will modify the ruling to designate the full 75 MHz to C-V2X. At the same time, industry stakeholders advocate for the entire 75 MHz for C-V2X, stating concern about potential RF interference issues with the current spectrum segmentation. To accelerate smart transportation and ITS applications, the industry stakeholders need to arrive at a final agreement on the spectrum ruling.


5G will support connected devices at an unprecedented scale—2.5 million devices per square mile—and provide multi-gigabit speeds and single-digit latency without interruption. 5G in ITS will support diverse services, such as mission-critical services and enhanced mobile broadband, and make good use out of available spectrum, from millimeter wave to low bands (1 GHz). In ITS, the 5G network will help transportation authorities:

  • Support numerous CAV on their system, all trading data simultaneously
  • Capture and relay real-time roadway conditions and data to support proactive operational decisions
  • Use higher-resolution cameras to identify and resolve traffic incidents quickly
  • Support a massive number of IoT devices to, for example, enable drivers to find a parking spot more quickly or optimize trip planning
  • Support OEM remote monitoring and diagnostics and overthe-air vehicle software updates

5G performance requires an advanced core network and efficient radio technologies, more spectrum bandwidth, and network densification. With several technologies in play, 5G network design and deployment requires an end-to-end approach to interconnect each technology seamlessly for top network performance. Black & Veatch is actively constructing 5G network nodes across urban and rural communities in the U.S.

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Information Technology

Cloud and Edge

Computing By 2023, the number of apps running on edge infrastructure will increase by 800%. Edge computing uses a distributed cloud network to process data hungry apps at the source for better user experience and performance. Instead of one central data center, ITS design may include numerous, smaller data centers distributed geographically. This architecture is ideal for ITS because it:

  • Reduces load on backhaul networks and enables context awareness and data analytics capabilities to support mission-critical and low-latency apps
  • Locates cloud-computing capabilities within the road infrastructure, and access network infrastructure near vehicles and RSUs
  • Uses cloud-based services to support the full range of capabilities from driver assistance, CAV maintenance, and high-resolution maps used in many apps
  • Assists edge computing to support V2X transportation apps that demand substantial bandwidth, rapid response times, and low latency
  • Helps collect, process, and store data. When the State of Wyoming ran their CV pilot, they indicated an unexpected gap between testing and operating at scale. One of the culprits was increasing data volume

In ITS, computers and communication systems are central technologies to highway and street-level travel and transport, which means security is critical. The ITS may require 3rd party applications and associated use cases and various communications equipment and service provider-assisted data flows. With many connection points, ITS would have a large ‘attack surface,’ and disruption could be costly, especially to public safety.

Most transportation leaders know that a high-speed, reliable data network is critical to ITS programs. However, what may be unknown is that a network’s architecture is foundational to effective cybersecurity infrastructure and cybersecurity programs. Regardless of the type of network being built (such as packet wired, wireless or even fiber transport), every attribute of the network has a cybersecurity consideration: every tier, every module within a tier, and where the various elements interconnect. Our experience shows that the best network architecture is an integration between cybersecurity and network design and based on industry standards to achieve maximum performance, cost efficiency, and ease of support.

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