Skip to content
Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
ITS Joint Program Office
Search for ITS Standards

Stay Connected

Facebook    Twitter    ITS Newsletter

Deployment Resources


ITS Standards Fact Sheets

United States Department of Transportation logo NEMA logo AASHTO logo ITE logo
Print Ready Version

ITE Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) Family of Standards

This Fact Sheet was written on September 24, 2009. The statuses of the four standards at the time were as follows: Application Programming Interface (API) Standard for the Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) version 2.06b was Published as of September 2007, ITS Cabinet Standard v1.02.17b was Published in November 2006 and version 2.0 is currently under development,, Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) Standard Specification for the Type 2070 Controller (ITE ATC Type 2070) version 1 was Published as of March 2001, and Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) was Published as of September 2006.

This Fact Sheet was written on September 24, 2009.

This Fact Sheet was last verified on September 25, 2009

 Check the ITS Standards Search to see if there has been subsequent development activity.


The Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) Family of standards are intended to provide open-architecture hardware and software platforms to support a wide range of Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications requiring a field-implementable controller. The initial standards in this family focus on traffic control applications of traffic signal control, ramp control, traffic monitoring, lane use signals, field masters, general ITS beacons, lane control, and access control. The modularity provided in the current standards will support the expansion to cover additional ITS functions in the future.

There are three major components of the ATC system:

  1. Controller: A field-hardened computer for embedded applications which, with the appropriate software and hardware modules, can perform many different ITS functions. The ATC Controller is made up of a central processing unit (CPU), an operating system (OS), memory, external and internal interfaces, and other associated hardware necessary to create an embedded transportation computing platform for control of field devices.
  2. Cabinet: Houses the electronic equipment and provides suitable power supplies. Provides the standard hardware surrounding the controller that is used to measure inputs and direct outputs relevant to the controller application. The cabinet also provides the communications paths between the subsystems and monitors their operation.
  3. Software: Is made up of three distinct parts:
    1. Application Program(s): Software programs developed to support a wide range of ITS applications.
    2. Operating System (OS): The software platform that provides access to the hardware processor and control over application programs which for the ATC family is specified as LINUX with specified POSIX libraries and specified common components.
    3. Applications Programming Interface (API): Serves as an interface between application programs and the Operating System. Having a defined interface allows an application program to run on hardware from different vendors, and also allows hardware upgrade without undermining interoperability.

Currently, the ITE ATC Family consists of four standards (two types of controllers, one cabinet, and one API):

  • ITE Application Programming Interface (API) Standard for the Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) specifies the interface for application programs designed to operate on ATC controllers regardless of the manufacturer. It also allows multiple applications to be interoperable on a single controller by sharing the fixed resources of the controller. The Software Requirements Specification (SRS) defines the five-layer structure and the user needs and requirements of the ATC software, and further defines the API layer, including standard utilities needed by users to manage the operation of the system, and standard managers needed by application software to access the operating system. The API standard provides the basis for the Board Support Package, the layer underneath the API that is part of the ATC controller standard discussed below.
  • ITE ITS Cabinet specifies the functional physical design requirements for an ITS cabinet that supports the deployment of multiple ITS functions in a single cabinet. The standard defines the major components to be installed in a cabinet: Controller, Input Assembly(s), Output Assembly(s), Power Distribution Assembly, Service Panel Assembly, DC Power/Communications Assembly & Extension, RAW/CLEAN AC Power Assembly & Extension, Cabinet Monitoring System, and optionally a Fiber Optic Splice Tray. The controller is standardized by either of the two standards listed below. Other components, including such devices as traffic detectors, traffic signal load switches, malfunction monitors (that monitor the output of the cabinet for safety), fail-safe controls such as malfunction flash operation, special detection equipment, lightning protection, and power management are included in the cabinet standard. Three standard cabinet assemblies are defined. Cabinet and cage dimensional drawings are included, as are pin and socekt drawings and specifications for all power and communications interfaces
  • ITE ATC Type 2070 Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) Standard Specification for the Type 2070 Controller specifies the first in a family of open-architecture ATC controllers. This standard was developed to provide national consensus around the Model 2070 controller as defined by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans). The standard specifies physically and electrically interchangeable modules that combine to form a Type 2070 ATC that is capable of running application software from a variety of providers. The modules may be selected by the user to allow the Type 2070 controller to be installed in the two types of traffic signal cabinets in common use. Legacy traffic signal systems in the U.S. most commonly use signal controller cabinets with rack-mounted equipment conforming to Model 170 specifications originally developed by Caltrans and the New York State DOT (and then disseminated widely throughout the U.S.), or cabinets specified for use with controllers conforming to the Association of Electrical and Medical Imaging Equipment Manufacturers (NEMA), formerly known as National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) Standard TS-1 or TS-2. The Type 2070 can be configured, through the use of interchangeable interface modules, to work in either Model 170-style (and newer ITS) cabinets or NEMA-style cabinets. The Type 2070 can also be configured as a straightforward traffic signal controller using a single-board processor, or as a more general-purpose platform using the IEEE VMEbus standard backplane bus. The former is the most commonly used configuration and is known as the "2070 Lite." The Type 2070 controller avoided the requirement for an API by specifying the use of a commercial operating system and processor chip.
  • ITE Advanced Transportation Controller (ATC) specifies the second in a family of open-architecture ATC controllers. This standard defines a single-board computer ("engine board") that provides a standard physical and electrical interface to a "host module," which includes standardized peripheral-management components, a power supply, and an enclosure conforming to the standard. The ATC specifies the use of the Linux operating system, and requires manufacturers to provide a common "Board Support Package" (BSP) that provides the OS kernel and linkage between the hardware drivers and an API. The BSP conforms to the API SRS described above. The configuration of the BSP and the Linux operating system are specified, but the processing hardware is not specified to facilitate compatibility with future hardware. Developers implement their software by compiling and linking it to the hardware drivers using the BSP. The BSP will support serial communications, communication to the field cabinet, FLASH memory, portable memory devices (using USB), application task control, time and date management, and user interface support. The ATC includes the engine board (with operating system and BSP software), a serially connected front panel, parallel port, serial and USB ports for external user management devices, network ports for communications to additional modules and central systems, a data key, and cabinet interface modules. The ATC host module is required to be configurable to support either NEMA-style or 170/ITS-style cabinets, and is compatible with all Type 2070 cabinet communication standards. The ATC is also required to provide a straightforward software portability path for software designed to operate on the Type 2070 controller. System communications are provided by communications slots that provide serial communications to the device using the slot, but provide devices in support of a range of media and modulation options. The standard also includes physical and environmental requirements, including test procedures.
What are these standards for?

The ITE ATC Family of standards defines field controller devices used in traffic management applications, particularly (but not exclusively) for traffic signal control. The three components of the ATC are the controller, cabinet, and software. These standards define the initial modular ATC software platform for the Applications Programming Interface (API) ,the Cabinet, and the Controller.

Who uses them?

The ITE ATC Family of standards has two types of users, operational users and developers. Operational users are transportation and traffic engineers and technicians (or their consultants) who design, specify, procure, implement, operate, and maintain ITS field controller units. This standard is especially relevant to the efforts of developers, including manufacturers who design, develop, and manufacture the field equipment in addition to software developers who design, develop, and program the software applications to run on it.

How are they used?

Collectively, the ITE ATC Family describes open architecture field control devices and software applications that run on them. Operational users can use the standards for hardware and software procurement of traffic control equipment including ITS functions. Manufacturers and developers use the standards to create equipment and applications that meet the standard implementation and operational requirements.


The ITE ATC Family of standards supports a modular hardware platform for field control equipment capable of running modular software applications for a wide variety of ITS applications. The standards describe the physical, environmental, software, and interface requirements.

The following set of standards and documents, while not part of the ITS standards, should also be considered when using this family of standards:

How to obtain Standards
Association of Electrical and Medical Imaging Equipment Manufacturers (NEMA), formerly known as National Electrical Manufacturers Association
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
Institute of Transportation Engineers