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Thursday, 13th December 2012 - 13:00

ITS United Kingdom celebrates twentieth birthday


ITS United Kingdom, the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) society for the UK, has marked twenty years since its foundation in 1992.   The occasion was celebrated with a party at the society’s office near the Tower of London.  Several people involved in the setting up of ITS (UK) attended;  some of whom are still active Members of the society.

One of them, Professor Eric Sampson CBE of Newcastle University and ITS (UK)’s Ambassador, said:

“Where we have got to after the first 20 years?.  We are recognised world-wide as the most organised of the many European ITS bodies that are looked after by ERTICO and we fit the expression UK Ministers love of ‘punching above our weight’. 

“We have, so far, survived the economic downturn quite well suggesting our 160+ member organisations see us as a source of advice, wisdom, contacts, information etc to help them through the recession rather than yet another costs drain contributing to it.

“We sponsor no fewer than 12 Special Interest Groups and our aim of leading informed and balanced debate on ITS and being the recognised reference point for information on ITS has led to our regularly giving both oral and written evidence to Parliamentary Transport Select Committee inquiries.  “Not a bad record then!”

Dr John Miles of TAN, a former Director Public Policy at ITS (UK), said:  “Back in 1992 there were a few of us from DoT (as it was in those days) and TRL who realised that something completely revolutionary was about to happen to road transport. Research going on in Europe, Japan and North America was throwing up some exciting possibilities.

“I remember that year going to Orlando Florida, not to see Disney World but to drive one of the test cars fitted with a prototype GPS satellite navigation system. It was a field test called TravTek, sponsored by the USDOT . General Motors had fixed up 100 cars with a weird-looking bulbous external GPS antennae, the size of a football, and a computer in the boot to hold the digital map. The idea was to see if the vehicles could operate as traffic probes and report congestion.

“That autumn you could rent one of these cars from Avis. I was visiting Washington and flew down from to take a trip. I discovered the car could navigate me direct from the airport to my hotel and even out to the space centre at Cape Kennedy, but downtown I needed to use the “hop right” and “hop left” buttons on the steering wheel to correct troublesome map matching errors, for example showing me running along 1st Street instead of 2nd! That way I could hop over a block if the geo-positioning algorithm got it wrong.

“Back then who could have imagined the small and ubiquitous SatNav product of today? In those day the jargon was Road Transport Informatics and Intelligent Vehicle-Highway Systems, which is why Susan Harvey (of the soon-to-be-disbanded NEDO) was promoting a trade association called RTI Focus. It was another 2 or 3 years before “Intelligent Transport Systems” emerged globally as the umbrella term for what was happening. Later, in 1999, a name change to ITS (UK) was called for to fit in with ITS America, ITS Canada, and so on. The rest, as they say, is history.”


Photo shows:

1.  Jennie Martin, current Secretary General, and David Clowes, past Secretary General, cut the birthday cake  Photo - Marcus Van Lyden

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