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4.1 Factors That Drive the Systems Engineering Environment



This chapter describes the ITS factors that shape the systems engineering environment. It describes how a systems engineering environment [based on industry best practices] can best serve the development, operations, and maintenance of Intelligent Transportation Systems.

Key factors that drive the systems engineering approach for Intelligent Transportation Systems [ITS] are:

  • changing technology that impacts user needs, expectations, and project developments
  • long term evolution and upgrades
  • policy differences among partner agencies

As a result, the following are key challenges that systems engineering will need to address:

Rapid evolution in technology and tools

To keep pace with evolving technology and reduce the risk of overruns and schedule delays, make technology choices at the last possible moment of the project development cycle. Also, implement short, incremental development cycles. Complex projects should use an evolutionary development [evolve the system over time], utilizing modular building blocks with well documented interfaces.

Sustaining, maintaining, and evolving the Intelligent Transportation System

Initial development is the start of the ITS life cycle. These systems are expected to be operated and maintained for decades with the ability to evolve as the need changes. Systems engineering provides a disciplined way for a system to be documented and controlled. Systems engineering processes build in system integrity during the development phase of the project. Configuration management maintains that integrity throughout the life of the system. The only way this can effectively happen is if systems are well documented, requirements are known and controlled using a change management process, there is a high level of stakeholder involvement and buy-in, design documentation is developed that accurately reflects the system elements, standard interfaces are used, and the system is well structured into modules.

Evolving needs of transportation

Systems engineering supports the evolving needs of transportation by maintaining a clear set of system requirements that are linked to the stated needs through the Concept of Operations. When needs change, this traceability will identify the areas of change and their impact to the system.

Participation of multiple agencies and a diverse set of stakeholders

The systems engineering process provides a clear roadmap for the development of systems. When adapted, the stakeholders are aware of the steps and understand what is expected during all phases of the project. Participation of stakeholders is facilitated when everyone is “on the same page” of the project and has a common language or understanding.

Development of regional and state ITS architectures

The development of a regional and state ITS architecture is a starting point for the development of ITS projects. [Architecture here means the framework that was set-up for the region and not a project architecture that can be built]. The regional and state ITS architectures provide: the initial set of stakeholders, needs, inventory, operational concepts, and requirements that define the roles of the various agencies. These elements flow directly into the systems engineering process for the project level Concept of Operations and its requirements. These high level inputs from the architecture are then refined into project level requirements which the developer can implement.

Flexibility in procurement options for consultants and development teams without sacrificing system integrity

Systems engineering provides the system’s owner the greatest flexibility in contracting options. When the systems engineering process is implemented the products from the project are well documented. When the system needs to evolve, change, or be upgraded, the system’s owner has the option to select from a number of qualified consultants and development teams. He is not locked into a particular consultant or contractor. It is recommended the system’s owner choose 1] consultants who have systems engineering experience and 2] development teams that use documented internal processes. Both should demonstrate performance in applying systems engineering. [See Chapter 7 for additional information.]



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