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Janne Lautanala at ITS World Congress 2022.

Blog: ITS World 2022 – a showcase for intelligent traffic in the City of Angels

Published on 6.10.2022

ITS World, the Intelligent Transportation Systems World Congress, is the world’s largest single event in the intelligent traffic sector. It brings together world leaders, professionals, policymakers, researchers and private-sector representatives. This year’s ITS World Congress was held in Los Angeles, USA on 18–23 September 2022, and its theme was “Transformation by Transportation”.

A lot of the value of these kinds of events lies in the opportunity to meet people. So I’d like to thank everyone whom I was able to chat to and exchange views with during the week.

Here are a few key observations, both from the congress itself and on the traffic in Los Angeles and the USA.

Digital traffic twins are coming!

“Digital twin” was clearly the new traffic buzzword. Yet this term is sadly misused, and a little research often revealed that many solutions were merely a narrow dataset glued onto a three-dimensional urban model, with no capability for simulation or holistic modelling. Which is why it’s important to understand what we’re talking about when we use the term “digital twin”. And it’s equally important to understand exactly what problem we’re attempting to solve with our digital twin.

Digital twins require considerable storage space and processor capacity. And if you’re dealing with a rapidly changing situational picture, storage speed will easily form a bottleneck – which is why blockchain was found to be an unsuitable technology for digital twins.

The model of the built environment on which a digital traffic twin is based must be accurate to the centimetre, and so several Lidar scans are used to create it. However, GTFS integration remains challenging. That is, creating a single model that combines the built environment model with “service layer” traffic data, such as public transport data.

Several solutions could be seen at the congress, from companies such as MetabuildMicrosoft/ BentleyESR and Mobi (

Lower costs lead to increased use of video analytics

Thanks to cloud-based machine learning, the price of video analytics has fallen considerably. This has paved the way for all kinds of new applications, including traffic-related ones. Google, Facebook, Microsoft and others have fuelled this trend by investing in open source code.

Several examples were on show at the congress, with different manufacturers using video analytics to count or monitor traffic, or detect special situations.

Selling mobility as a service

Although Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) was the buzzword at the last couple of ITS Worlds, it was far less visible this year. This may in part be due to the fact that MaaS hasn’t really made a breakthrough in the USA. Operators are still struggling with difficult integrations, complex contractual structures and, above all, unprofitable business models.

Mobility needs have changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and I believe that there is now more need for MaaS (or similar concepts) than ever before. However, MaaS concepts need to be reinvented to meet the needs of both users and our post-pandemic world.

Autonomous vehicles are coming – but only gradually

Autonomous vehicles were also slightly less visible than in previous years. The speakers openly shared their experiences of various pilots – both successes and failures. In the USA, companies such as Google/Waymo, Cruise, Walmart and Argo AI/Ford have conducted major commercial pilots. Waymo, for instance, is already operating in three locations and their service has more than 100,000 customers.

The speakers felt that there were still significant challenges associated with autonomous vehicles:

Autonomous vehicles must be able to function better when surrounded by human-driven vehicles, which are much less safe.

Autonomous vehicles must be able to gain people’s trust. People’s expectations vary a lot when it comes to things such as autonomous taxis. For example, how fast should they drive, what kind of music should be played, and what kind of information should be displayed on taxi screens?

Business models are also extremely challenging. Take robot taxis, for example. It was found that traditional taxis are still significantly cheaper in terms of both acquisition and operating costs.

Autonomous vehicles will also need assistance from infrastructure (C-ITS, see the next section.)

American operators saw opportunities in long-haul autonomous trucks: human drivers need to sleep, but robot trucks can just keep going. Similar potential was seen in urban service vehicles.

In general, many speakers stressed the need for a more holistic approach: “What problem are we trying to solve with autonomous vehicles?” Too many projects have been highly technology-driven.

Autonomous vehicles are coming – but only gradually. The speakers predicted that high-end private cars ($80k+ in the USA) would be available in the early 2030s, and would enable an American to handle 90% of their driving autonomously (highway driving, traffic jams, parking).

On Youtube, you can find some great videos of how it feels to ride in a robot taxi:


Connected ITS (C-ITS), V2X and intelligent networked vehicles are evolving

C-ITS services (Cooperative Intelligent Transport Systems) are services in which a vehicle/person exchanges digital information with infrastructure or other vehicles/people, about things such as free parking spaces. (Source: Traficom – Networked and automated road traffic)

The development and introduction of C-ITS services is considered necessary in order to enable the future creation of an automated and highly interactive traffic system (CCAM – Cooperative, Connected and Automated Mobility).

These services can be roughly classified as follows:

Day1 services aim to convey information to aid driving (awareness driving)

Day2 services improve service quality and perception, and help drivers to better predict situations (sensing driving).

Day 3+ services add advanced services, such as interactivity, decision-making and sharing drivers’ intentions with the aim of achieving a high level of road safety (cooperative driving)


A considerable number of solutions relating to C-ITS and V2X (Vehicle-to-Infrastructure, Vehicle-to-vehicle, Vehicle-to-Network) were on display at the congress: Lidar devices, sensors and software solutions for data collection and management (such as Monotch).

Many pilots have already been carried out. Although the costs have been considerable – New York City spent more than EUR 20 million on 3,000 vehicles and 500 roadside devices – the benefits have been difficult to prove. The technology itself is still under development.

V2X services are also important for the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

Traffic needs ecosystems, collaboration, and the effective sharing of compatible data

Traffic-related issues are so large and complex that no single party can solve them alone. We need collaboration and functional traffic ecosystems.

Improving interoperability between operators was raised in a number of speeches and, to my astonishment, it was the Americans in particular who were stressing the importance of standardisation. In the future, we will also need more interoperability across different modes of traffic and across sectors.

It’s also vital to understand exactly what (common) problem we’re trying to solve and what kind of data we need to solve it. Some data is confidential, so it’s important to understand where the boundaries of confidentiality lie.

In many cases, the cost of sharing or selling data is too high in relation to its benefits. It’s therefore important to:

spend money only on sharing genuinely useful data (not all data needs to be shared)

boost the efficiency of data collection and sharing in order to minimise the costs.


The traffic sector needs digital experts

The traffic sector is competing with traditional IT sectors for talent. In the USA, for example, traffic professionals with digital skills can easily find positions at Facebook or Google. There’s a particular shortage of people with expertise in both the traffic sector and data (for example, data analysts).

This is why many operators have started to train their own employees by making considerable investments in developing digital competence.

The digitalisation of logistics holds huge potential

Digitalising logistics will create many opportunities, and developments are already underway.

For example, the Fenix project is aiming to harmonise and digitalise imports and exports within the EU. The project is creating policies for sharing data between various parties, but is not really taking much of a stand on the content, such as how to compile ETA data or perform CO2 calculations. Collaboration is not mandatory – the goal is to forge a culture of voluntary cooperation. Pilots are already underway in countries such as Belgium, France and Italy.

Sharing logistics information typically aims for greater transparency, as this will make the whole process smoother, reduce waiting times and, with the aid of data, enable the creation of new business models.

The Nordic countries boast some of the world’s top expertise in maritime traffic and port operations. The digitalisation of vessel traffic and ports holds enormous potential that can directly impact Finland’s competitiveness and security of supply.

Long live Nordic+ cooperation!

The Nordic countries and Estonia have now had a joint stand at ITS World for four years running. We have excellent expertise, seamless cooperation, and a great deal to give the world.


Unfortunately, a large proportion of intelligent traffic projects are still technology-driven. We need to better understand our end users and customers, and identify exactly what problem we’re trying to solve. Even if the problem can be solved, it’s always worthwhile to carefully assess whether the benefits of the solution are reasonable in relation to its costs. Start with the why!


Observations on the US traffic system

During my trip, I also made some observations on the US traffic system. Here are a few of them.

American traffic is broken

Los Angeles is the second largest city in the USA. More than 10 million people live in Los Angeles County, and the traffic is heavily weighted towards private motoring. Although there is public transport, few people use it.

When people talk about public transport in the USA, a lot of emphasis is placed on both accessibility and social/economic equity. To put it bluntly, public transport in the USA is viewed as “socialised transport” or transportation for poor people.

Congestion and pollution are a major problem in places such as Los Angeles. About 16% of new cars in California are electric compared to 10.3% in Finland. To me, it’s obvious that California needs to change its propulsion systems in order to tackle pollution. And California has indeed passed a law by which no new cars with internal combustion engines may be sold after 2035.

Electric scooters have been a huge hit in Los Angeles:there are about 37,000 electric scooters making 11.5 million journeys per year. Although commercial electric scooter companies shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, people were still able to move around, as public transport and city bike services remained in operation. Mobility services in Los Angeles are integrated into social support – which is why public transport users are often people with low incomes. Some mobility services have also provided people with free smartphones.

About 43,000 people died in traffic in the USA in 2021 – the highest number since 2005. The authorities have now woken up to this problem, which is why many solutions to improve road safety have received a lot of funding.

The Port of Los Angeles plays a huge role in US imports

40% of US imports pass through Los Angeles harbours (Oakland and Los Angeles). The port is gigantic and partially automated: two of the Port of Los Angeles’ five terminals are automated, while the other three are manually operated.

A huge wave of container-carrying trucks leaves the terminals, as logistics are largely based on road traffic.


Google leads the way and the American authorities acquiesce

Google holds a significant position in the US traffic data market. The authorities engage in a great deal of collaboration with Google – for example, the Work Zone Data Exchange standard for roadworks was developed through collaboration between Google and US states. Information about roadworks is now shared in 10 US states. Google says that the information received from the authorities is very valuable to them in their navigation services.

Uber and Lyft have killed taxis

Traditional taxis have largely disappeared from American streets. The market is mainly dominated by Uber and Lyft, and many taxis also work for them.

Uber has gained a significant market share, and has therefore started to take an even bigger slice of customers’ fares. According to a local taxi driver, Uber currently keeps 50% for itself compared to the 20% it used to take. Therefore, this taxi driver no longer considers working for Uber to be a particularly attractive prospect.

One morning, I tried – in vain – to order an Uber for about 20 minutes. But in the end I got lucky, as a traditional taxi turned up to give me a ride.