Integrating Operations into Planning and Programming

Analysis and Performance Measurement

Regional Collaboration and Coordination

Organizing for Operations

Congestion Management Process (CMP)

Regional Concept for Transportation Operations (RCTO)

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Systems Engineering and ITS Project Development

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Systems Engineering and ITS Project Development

Systems engineering is an organized approach to developing and implementing a system. The approach can be applied when developing any type of system. The International Council on Systems Engineering (INCOSE) defines systems engineering as "an interdisciplinary approach and means to enable the realization of successful systems. It focuses on defining customer needs and required functionality early in the development cycle, documenting requirements, then proceeding with design synthesis and system validation while considering the complete problem."[1] It is crucial to use the systems engineering approach in designing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) infrastructure so that the technology effectively supports the management and operation of the transportation system. A systems engineering analysis is required for all ITS projects using Federal funds per Title 23 CFR 940.11.[2]

Although there are many ways to represent the systems engineering process, the winged "V" (or “Vee”) model shown in the figure below has been broadly adopted in the transportation industry. The Regional ITS Architecture, shown as the first step in the process, is addressed here.

System v modelThe Systems Engineering "V" Model diagram (This figure represents the systems engineering process in the shape of the letter V. Different parts of the process are in each "leg" of the symbol. Beginning in the upper left, and slightly separated from the V, is Regional Architecture. The upper left of the V is considered to contain the lifecycle processes. The steps of the systems engineering process, which proceeds from the upper left and down towards the bottom point of the V, are as follows: Feasibility Study or Concept Exploration, Concept of Operations, System Requirements, High Level Design, and Detailed Design. This left leg of the V is labeled Decomposition and Definition. At the bottom-most point of the V is the next step: Software or Hardware Development Field Installation and it is labeled Implementation. Between each of these steps is document approval. From the lower part of the right leg and flowing up to the top of the right leg, the figure continues with: Unit or Device Testing, Subsystem Verification, System Verification and Deployment, System Validation, and Operations and Maintenance. This leg is labeled Integration and Recomposition. Between each step up to System Validation, is document approval. The step at the upper right leg of the V is Changes and Upgrades. The last stage of the V, separated slightly from it, is Retirement and Replacement.  The two sides of the V are connected by four plans.  The first plan is the system validation plan which connects the concept of operations and system validation steps.  The next plan is the system verification plan (system acceptance) which connects the system requirements and system verification and deployment steps.  The third plan is the subsystem verification plan (subsystem acceptance) which connects the high-level design and subsystem verification steps.  The last plan is the unit or device test plan which connects the detailed design and the unit or device testing steps. The timeline for the development processes moves from left to right along the V diagram.)

Figure 1. The Systems Engineering "V" Model.[2] Click to enlarge.

The outputs of the planning for operations approach such as operations objectives and performance measures should be applied to the development of an ITS project. The approach provides a systematic method for ITS and operations project developers to design their systems to achieve the desired operations objectives. The systems engineering approach helps to ensure that the system or operations strategy is responsive to the needs of all stakeholders, such as the traveling public, transit operators, businesses, incident responders, transportation management center (TMC) operators, and others.


[1] International Council on Systems Engineering, "What is Systems Engineering?" Web Site, June 2004. Available at:, last accessed June 9, 2013.