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Systems Engineering for Intelligent Transportation Systems

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1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose

This guide is intended to introduce you to systems engineering and provide a basic understanding of how it can be applied to planning, designing, and implementing intelligent transportation systems (ITS) projects. The guide leads you step by step through the project life cycle and describes the systems engineering approach at each step. It describes how to begin implementing the systems engineering approach on your next ITS project and incorporate it more broadly into your organization's business processes and practices.

Reading this guide will make you conversant in systems engineering and familiar with the way that it is being applied to ITS projects today. It won't make you a systems engineering expert. Many excellent and comprehensive resources are available that describe every aspect of systems engineering in detail. These resources are identified throughout the guide in case you want more information.

This document is a resource and a learning tool on the topic of systems engineering. It is not formal guidance from US DOT on how to meet the systems engineering requirements in FHWA Rule 940 and the FTA National ITS Architecture Policy. Compliance with the Rule/Policy is actually established by each FHWA Division and FTA Regional Office. It is strongly recommended that you contact your federal representative for the specific requirements in your state.

1.2 Intended Audience

This guide is designed for ITS project managers, system owners, operators, maintainers, and anyone else in need of a quick, approachable primer on the basics of systems engineering for ITS. We assume you have a transportation background and know something about ITS, but you don't need any previous knowledge of systems engineering to benefit from this guide.

You might have noticed that systems engineers are not included in the above list. The intended audience is not systems engineers, since they should already be familiar with the information in this guide. The guide is intended for all the other transportation professionals who are involved in ITS project development and will need to know something about systems engineering to ensure that it is correctly and productively applied to their projects.

1.3 Navigating the Document

This document includes seven chapters that are organized to introduce you to systems engineering and then to describe how systems engineering can be applied to your ITS projects.

Here is a breakdown of the six remaining chapters and what you will find in each:

Chapter 2: Why Use Systems Engineering? provides some motivation for reading the rest of the document. It briefly explains why systems engineering should be used for ITS projects and gives some background on the FHWA Rule and FTA Policy requirements for systems engineering.

Chapter 3: What is Systems Engineering? sets the stage for the following chapters by defining some key terms and explaining the guiding principles behind systems engineering. The "V" model that adorns the cover of this document is introduced here.

Chapter 4: ITS Technical Processes follows an ITS project from initial project identification all the way through retirement of the implemented system. The systems engineering approach is described as you traverse the "V" model and step through topics like Concept of Operations, requirements, and design. This is the heart of the document.

Chapter 5: ITS Project Management Processes describes project planning, risk management, project monitoring and control, and configuration management. These processes are used to manage the ITS project so that it is completed on time and on budget. They complement the technical processes that are described in the previous chapter. If you are not familiar with these project management processes, you should briefly familiarize yourself with this chapter as you encounter references to the processes in Chapter 4.

Chapter 6: Applying Systems Engineering shows how the systems engineering process can be applied to your next ITS project. This chapter discusses procurement, development approaches, and tailoring the systems engineering process to fit the needs of your project. It also describes how organizations build systems engineering into their business practices.

Chapter 7: Resources lists many excellent books, reports, training courses, and other systems engineering resources that you can use to learn more about any of the systems engineering topics that are introduced in this document.

1.4 About the Icons

Icons are used to highlight different kinds of information throughout this document.

Tip.This "lightbulb" icon identifies suggestions that may improve the systems engineering analysis or the quality of the systems engineering products that are created. Usually based on actual experience, these are ideas that have worked in the past.

Caution.This "exclamation point" icon flags warnings. In contrast to tips, these are problems that have been encountered that you should avoid. Also frequently based on actual experience, these are ideas that have NOT worked in the past.

Resources.This "i for information" icon highlights resources that offer additional information related to systems engineering, including books, reports, presentations, and other documents. Chapter 7 includes a list of all the resources that are identified in this document.

Tailoring.This "scissors" icon identifies ways that the systems engineering process can be tailored for smaller ITS projects. Many ITS projects are relatively low risk and low complexity, and the systems engineering process should be tailored accordingly. Section 6.2.2 provides a more comprehensive discussion of how to tailor the systems engineering approach.

Tools.This "monitor" icon identifies software tools (programs, databases, spreadsheets, etc.) that support some aspect of the systems engineering or ITS project development processes. The information provided is not intended to endorse or recommend any particular tool.

Rule/Policy.This "scales" icon identifies references to the FHWA Rule and FTA Policy on ITS Architecture and Standards. These are normally references to the portion of the rule/policy related to systems engineering analysis (Sections 940.11 of the Rule and VI of the Policy). (See http://www.ops.fhwa.dot.gov/its_arch_imp/policy.htm regarding the Rule/Policy.)

Terminology.This "book" icon is used where ITS and systems engineering terminology is defined. Terminology is one of the first hurdles to overcome in any new subject area. Readers can skip quickly past the definitions of familiar terms.


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