WASHINGTON - Unawareness of the benefits of 'smart' transportation systems is stifling a new market that could generate billions of dollars in new sales for automakers, an industry executive said here last week.
Harry Voccola, new chairman of the Intelligent Transportation Society of America, said the auto industry stands to gain big if the public ever grasps that navigation systems and smart roads can prevent accidents, save lives and shorten commuting times.
'Awareness creates demand, and that's what we want to do. We want to create awareness so that people who elect public officials, who decide on public budgets, can in effect demand more ITS from their elected officials,' Voccola said in an interview at the close of the society's annual meeting last week.
SALES COULD SKYROCKET
Citing a study by Apogee Research Inc. of Bethesda, Md., Voccola said sales of intelligent trans-portation devices could grow from about $5 billion a year now to $35 billion a year by 2015.
Voccola, senior vice president of Navigation Technolo- gies, said he plans to use his year as the society's chairman to build public awareness of intelligent transportation system benefits.
Navigation Technologies, based in Rosemont, Ill., supplies the databases for most on-board navigation systems installed in new vehicles in the United States and Europe.
While some effort has been made to educate the public, Voccola said, he will concentrate on getting both intelligent transportation companies and governments to focus on the expected real-life advantages for travelers. He also will push for more federal money to be earmarked for intelligent transportation systems when Congress rewrites basic federal transportation law this year.
The society is an umbrella organization for about 1,000 companies, governmental agencies, educational institutions and other groups pushing advanced technology in transportation.
Industry growth so far was reflected in the society's annual meeting here last week. Five years ago there were 12 exhibitors; this year there were about 150 - as well as nearly 4,000 visitors.
But there were also signs of growing pains at several of the annual meeting's workshops.
Participants cited the difficulty of attaining the U.S. Department of Transportation's goal of having intelligent transportation system infrastructure in place in 75 metropolitan areas in less than a decade. The agency allocates less than $100 million a year for systems deployment, not enough to meet its own target, delegates said.