Connected Transportation Systems: Should NEMA Take the Wheel?

Connected Transportation Systems: Should NEMA Take the Wheel?

This piece was originally published in the April 2016 issue of ei, the magazine of the electroindustry.

By Steve Griffith, Industry Director, Connected Systems Division, NEMA, and Ryan Franks, Senior Program Manager, Connected System Division, NEMA


According to the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, travel delays due to traffic congestion caused drivers to waste more than three billion gallons of fuel and nearly seven billion hours—42 hours per rush-hour commuter—costing the nation $160 billion, or $960 per commuter. Washington, D.C., tops the list of gridlock-plagued cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter every year, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).

This succinctly delineates the need for the development and deployment of a fully connected transportation system that combines clearly defined technologies, interfaces, and processes that ensure safe, reliable, and interoperable system operations that minimize risks and maximize opportunities.

Intelligent transportation systems (ITS) are devices and services used to integrate transportation management and control systems. They involve signaling devices, traffic controllers, communications interfaces, and associated computing and software products. This technology includes the following enablers:

  • Prevention of vehicle crashes and the ability to respond more effectively to incidents
  • Management of existing transportation systems to optimize existing capacity and reduce costs, traffic congestion, fuel use, and emissions
  • Increased mobility and the ability to provide new options, including shared services
  • The ability to build systems to meet both current and future demands

The qualitative and quantitative benefits of ITS can be found in a 2003 Mitretek Systems report for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

NEMA Takes the Wheel

As was the case when NEMA started its cybersecurity strategic initiative, NEMA enters this industry with a clear focus in order to maximize its effectiveness. Its goals are in line with NEMA’s mission to promote safety, innovation, interoperability, environmentalism, and market enhancement through standards, advocacy, and business information.

Integration of Policy Recommendations

NEMA sees its role as integrating transportation policy recommendations into its overall development and messaging, specifically to generate federal investments in highways, bridges, and transit. Unlike with corporate tax and energy-efficiency tax incentives, NEMA has not taken a position on the appropriate source for funds to support state and local transportation markets into which our members sell and over which all of our members’ manufacturing inputs, components, and final products travel.

Standards Development

The industry needs standards that focus on how a vehicle interacts with infrastructure. NEMA member companies make products that, in part, make up the “I” in V2I (vehicle-to-infrastructure) communications. While the Intelligent Transportation Society of America advances the research, development, and deployment of ITS to improve surface transportation systems, the organization is not involved with standards. NEMA is considering a spectrum study to identify areas where standards could address proper safeguards associated with the increasing penetration of wireless ITS devices into the narrow 5.9-GHz dedicated short-range communications band. This activity falls under NEMA’s 2016 Internet of Things (IoT) strategic initiative.


The Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection should adopt NEMA IIC 1 v02 Digital Imaging and Communications in Security (DICOS). This standard provides a data-interchange protocol and interoperable, extensible file format to facilitate data information interchange for security screening applications that include demographics, x-ray  and computed tomography images, material-specific information, trace signature detection, and threat assessment of objects of inspection (e.g., checked luggage, carry-on luggage, parcels, and personnel).

Sizing Up Adjacent Industries

There are a number of adjacent industries in surface transportation that offer NEMA opportunities, including smart parking; autonomous vehicles; railway signaling; and air, bus, and rapid transit.

Smart parking uses sensors to determine if a spot is occupied or vacant. When a vehicle has stayed beyond its allotted time, the technology sends this information to a parking enforcement officer. Challenges for smart parking providers are growth in scale (i.e., number of operators, cities, regions, and customer accounts) and service scope (i.e., number of services, such as bundling merchant items with tickets, dinner reservations, and shopping) in order to attract users first, and then to demonstrate the impact on occupancy rates and revenue.

Most automobile companies are in some stage of research and development for autonomous vehicles, i.e., computer-controlled cars that are also referred to as robot or driverless cars. They have several advantages. Computers can operate vehicles more economically than people can, and accident avoidance is a major incentive because the car can respond faster than a human. The National Highway Safety Administration does not believe that self-driving vehicles are currently ready to be used on public roads for purposes other than testing. However, it recognizes innovations in automated driving and their potential to transform roadways.

Economic Factors

The global connected vehicle market potential by 2020 is larger than the entire U.S. electrical manufacturing market in 2015. It is estimated that more than 95 percent of the spending will be on components, software, and services not currently in NEMA’s product scope. Most of the profit potential will accrue for large information technology and navigation service providers and vehicle manufacturers, which will provide services tied to connected systems. NEMA’s traffic signaling and electric vehicle

charging apparatus sections will benefit from this.

The following economic factors inform consideration of connected vehicle market opportunities for NEMA.

  • PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that the global connected vehicles market will grow 29 percent, resulting in revenues rising from $31 billion in 2015 to $113 billion by 2020. The market involving partially or fully automatic driving will make up 49 percent of total market revenue. Functions that warn the driver of external hazards and internal responses of the vehicle to hazards will make up 33 percent. The remaining 18 percent will stem from mobility management, vehicle management, entertainment, and wellbeing functions.
  • Report Linker estimates that the global market for traffic management is currently around $3.5 billion and is expected to reach $17 billion by 2019. The North American market is somewhere between $800 million and $975 million and includes solutions, displays, and systems.
  • According to the Federal Highway Administration, there are approximately 315,000 traffic signals in the U.S.; the number increases by about 2,200 per year. The estimated annual market for traffic signals, including controls, is approximately $300 million in the U.S.

 Although the connected vehicle marketspace is growing fast, it centers on information technology, automotive sensors and devices, and automotive services. Most of the standards, government relations, and marketing efforts occur in automotive and information technology-oriented associations and trade groups. Herein lay many opportunities for NEMA to take the wheel.

Mr. Griffith manages several sections in NEMA’s Connected Systems Division. Mr. Franks coordinates NEMA’s efforts in the energy storage and microgrid industries.


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