Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), Pub. L. No. 102-240.
The Act established a Federal program to research, develop, and operationally test Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) and to promote their implementation. The program was designed to facilitate deployment of technology to enhance the efficiency, safety, and convenience of surface transportation, resulting in improved access, saved lives and time, and increased productivity.
The program began as a three-pronged effort that fostered the development of ITS through (1) basic research and development, (2) operational tests that served as the bridge between basic research and full deployment, and (3) various deployment support activities that facilitated the implementation of integrated ITS technologies.
ISTEA originally authorized $659 million for fiscal years 1992-1997 with additional funds appropriated for a total of approximately $1.2 billion. "The early renderings of a driverless system imagined 'smart infrastructure', with roadways and vehicles outftted with sensors and hardware that would guide an automobile along a programmed path. The culmination of this endeavor was a 1997 demonstration of a vehicle test feet with operators not using hands or feet driving 7.6 miles of Interstate 15 in San Diego."
The Transportation Efficiency Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) authorized a similar amount ($1.3 billion) through fiscal year 2003. In 2005, the Congress enacted the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), which ended the ITS Deployment Program at the close of fiscal year 2005, but continued ITS research at $110 million annually through fiscal year 2009. In addition to authorized ITS funding, ITS projects are eligible for regular Federal-aid highway funding.
The ITS program carries out its goals through research and development, operational testing, technology transfer, training and technical guidance in the areas of intelligent vehicles, advanced traffic and transit management, commercial vehicle operations, public safety, traveler information, and intermodal freight.