Intelligent Transportation Systems: U.S. Not Leading the Pack

Japan, South Korea and Singapore are taking the lead in intelligent transportation systems.

by / January 27, 2010

Today the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) released a report, Explaining International IT Application Leadership: Intelligent Transportation Systems, and will hold a forum for domestic and international transportation experts to discuss the implications of the findings.

The report highlights the increasing disparity between foreign industrialized nations and the United States regarding the current use of new technologies to address major transportation congestion, safety and environmental problems.

"The report should be a serious wake-up call to our nation's transportation leaders and policymakers as to why the U.S. is not staying competitive in the international market," said Scott Belcher, president and CEO of the Intelligent Transportation Society (ITS) of America. "Other industrialized nations have learned that a major key to transportation efficiency and economic growth is developing intelligent transportation systems to allow for the safe and easy movement of goods and people."

Improving a nation's transportation system involves more than building new roads and repairing old infrastructure. The future of transportation includes networks of sensors, microchips, cameras, vehicle probes and devices to disseminate information in real time to the masses.

Here are a few of the countries that are leading the way in ITS development and some of their strengths:


  • fixed devices and sensors imbedded in roadways;
  • mobile probes; 
  • vehicle information and communication system linking navigational systems in cars to real-time traffic information; and 
  • electronic toll collection.

South Korea:

  • real-time traffic information provisions;
  • advanced public transportation information systems;
  • electronic fare-pay and toll collections system called T-money;
  • vehicle message signs with interactive graphic maps; and 
  • traffic broadcasting station.


  • electronic road pricing and prepaid stored-value smartcards;
  • nationwide deployment of adaptive computerized traffic signals;
  • a fleet of 5,000 taxis which act as vehicle probes to collect traffic information; and
  • parking guidance system for all public parking areas throughout the city.

Other countries making significant advances in ITS are Australia, France, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the United Kingdom. While the limited land mass of each of these countries has played a major role in making transportation efficiency a top priority, policy factors appear much more important in explaining international leadership in ITS. The countries listed above all have clear and comprehensive nationwide visions for what ITS should look like in their respective countries.

To be sure, the United States is not completely lacking in the area of ITS and has many pockets of strength in different regions and cities across the nation. However, the U.S. does not have a national ITS vision and lacks federal-level funding. While states have their own ideas of efficient traffic systems, a federally led approach needs to be put in place to help with reorganization.