Institutional lessons from a test of a wide-area network to communicate traffic conditions in the Seattle area.
The Seattle Wide-area Information For Travelers (SWIFT) project was an intelligent transportation systems (ITS) Field Operational Test (FOT) conducted over a four-year period from 1993 to 1997. The purpose of the project was to test the efficacy of a high speed data system (HSDS), or FM sub-carrier, to disseminate incident, bus, and speed/congestion information via three different end-user devices: pager watch, portable computer, and in-vehicle navigation device. Six hundred commuters, many with route or mode options, participated in the FOT and provided user-acceptance evaluations.
This lesson is based on findings from the SWIFT Evaluation Report completed by Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) in January 1999, with additional input from WSDOT staff involved in the project.
During the SWIFT project, a number of institutional issues were encountered that affected the deployment of project. One issue related to the end users of the devices being tested. The lessons learned based on marketability of the SWIFT system were as follows:
- Clearly delineate any issues regarding market uncertainty to facilitate the development process. Issues and questions regarding the ultimate marketability of the services provided by SWIFT probably caused some SWIFT participants to question some of the development efforts for the project and delayed some of those efforts. A good market evaluation would have described the market issues and would have reduced uncertainty and facilitated product development.
- Include market research and end user-system prototyping to ensure that the final system is well received by the public. During the project, participants expressed concern about how well the SWIFT system would be accepted by users because user inputs and prototyping were minimal during the design phase. The significance or implication of this issue is that customer acceptance is crucial to the overall success of this type of traveler information application. Therefore, it is crucial to obtain end-user inputs throughout the system’s design, development, testing, and fielding process.
Not knowing whether consumers would ultimately accept the ITS products and services contributed to some development uncertainty and associated deployment problems with the SWIFT project. The impact of these issues could have been greatly reduced if market research and user prototyping had been conducted.