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Keeping the Transportation Workforce Up-to-Date on Intelligent Technology

Intelligent transportation concepts that emerged in the early 1990s focused on technologies like traffic signals timed to coordinate with each other, dynamic message signs along highways, and nascent fare payment systems for transit.

Today, the world of intelligent transportation systems (ITS) is infinitely more complex. There are mobile apps that riders use to pay for transit, vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communication networks that have the potential to save thousands of lives, and data analytics that help transportation professionals make more effective decisions.

Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communications
Vehicle-to-infrastructure communications can help warn drivers about work zones. (U.S. Department of Transportation photo)

The Challenge

Cell phones, let alone smart phones, did not exist when transportation professionals began to embrace early ITS concepts. Now, new transportation technologies and applications seem to emerge every quarter.

Transportation professionals across modes need help staying aware of and understanding the latest technological developments they can apply to their work.

The Solution

The U.S. DOT’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Professional Capacity Building (ITS PCB) Program, based in the ITS Joint Program Office, provides flexible, accessible ITS learning for the transportation workforce through training, technical assistance, and educational resources.

Through the ITS PCB Program, formally established in 1996, transportation professionals, emerging professionals, and students can stay on the cutting edge of technologies that cross and impact many disciplines.

The program draws on Volpe staff experience in producing engaging training courses on a range of intelligent technologies, and to provide these lines of support:

  • Coordinate with professional associations to develop and deliver ITS training.
  • Lead coordination with academia to develop and expand ITS and connected vehicle curricula at educational institutions, including annual workshops with universities that offer ITS programs, so the next generation of transportation professionals is well versed in ITS concepts.
  • Manage and produce ITS webinars and archive them online.
  • Maintain the ITS PCB website as a learning portal in coordination with the overall ITS Joint Program Office (JPO) website.
  • Quickly respond to short-term needs of ITS JPO staff who direct research, planning and early deployment of cutting edge innovative ITS technologies and applications, including connected and automated vehicles.
Connected vehicles at intersection
Intersection-connected vehicles can improve safety at busy intersections. (U.S. Department of Transportation photo)

The Impact

During the first 15 years of the ITS PCB Program, between 1,500 and 3,000 professionals used one or more ITS trainings each year. Since 2011, the annual users have increased to an estimated 50,000 professionals or students, with a portfolio of about 300 individual courses and other educational products, available for free. 

The Talking Transportation Technologies (T3) webinars, initiated in 2003, are by far the most popular products offered. Every year, the Volpe team produces 20 to 25 ITS-relevant webinars. Recent webinar topics have covered the latest in traffic incident management, variable speed limit systems, and connected autonomous vehicles on mixed traffic highways.

In addition to providing educational opportunities, the ITS PCB Program provides a platform to introduce common ITS language and concepts for consistent usage and direction among all transportation practitioners.

Updated: Tuesday, January 2, 2018