We are already getting used to having digital services in our homes. Setting the washing machine to the exact time we will be home, programming the fridge to remind you of the outdated products you have forgotten about, not to mention the advancement of entertainment systems in our living rooms, which we have been using for over a decade now.
But something new that we start seeing more of is the intelligent systems in transportation.
What is most spectacular about them is the real-time information services they incorporate and the level of improvement they bring to transportation management. While not intelligent in their own right, the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are created with the purpose to ensure better coordinated traffic system and more efficient behavior on the road.
The term ITS in itself is often mention along the topic of Smart Cities and connected cars, Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications and the Internet of Things (IoT). These themes are interrelated because connectivity today occurs not only in the car or between the car and the driver, but in the whole transport ecosystem around them.
There are three main drivers behind the current interest in car connectivity and intelligent transport systems, which will most probably be the reasons for its future success, too. Better safety, efficiency, and sustainability are all direct results of intelligent transportation systems, which make the reasoning behind connected vehicles more understandable and welcomed.
The Internet of Things has allowed for higher connectivity and while before many people thought this could be useful only in entertainment, both in the car and at home, today we see how it brings more convenience and comfort in more aspects. In the field of transportation the Internet of Things is developing so fast primarily because of its effect on safety.
The advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) implemented in the latest vehicles aim to improve safety of the person behind the wheel and on the road as a whole. Features of these systems include obstacle sensors and vehicle-to-vehicle interaction systems, which detect pedestrians and other vehicles at a potentially dangerous distance from the driven car. Emergency-braking, drowsiness alerts, and lane-change assistance are only few of the benefits you can find in your new car today.
When we talk about safety and vehicle connectivity, we can’t forget to mention the questionable future of self-driving cars. How is that safe, some of you may ask. Well, how could we know for sure is the way many would answer. What we can claim with certainty, however, is that the efforts put into improving safety and precaution technologies have significantly increased.
In the past years, developers are working on wide-angle cameras specifically designed for self-driving cars. A camera will be placed at every corner of the vehicle and it will support a 3D view allowing for a 360° vision around the car. The increase in the opening angles of the cameras will eliminate blind zones around the vehicle and will help build a clear picture of its surroundings.
Different scenarios of driving style, such as urban environment or highway traffic, are also considered into the newest technologies. It seems like the problem with self-driving cars is not into the intelligence of the systems operating the vehicle, but in the responsibility usually assigned to the driver. Current legislation considers safe driving the responsibility of the driver, which becomes an issue for driverless cars.
It seems like technology is advancing much faster than the level of progress institutions can handle. It’s good that at least this gives more time for better development of intelligence systems and connectivity in the transportation field.
Beyond better safety measures, the ITS lead to better fuel and energy efficiency.
With already common features such as real-time traffic information, an alternative road can be selected where the amount of fuel used and time spent behind the wheel will be decreased. Simply using GPS tracking and wireless communication can reduce fuel consumption by over 50%.
Additionally, ITS can be very helpful in cargo fleets, specifically in supply chains and logistics. This will allow for seamless and well-integrated transport solutions which will minimize resource waste.Governments would also be interested in the features of intelligent systems.
The European Commission, for example, passed the ‘Action plan for the deployment of intelligent transport systems in Europe’. It aims to encourage co-modality – the efficient use of different transport modes together and separately. By optimal use of travel and technology data, a more efficient transport behavior can be achieved, where traffic jams and accidents on the road are minimal.
Needless to say, all previously mentioned features and benefits of ITS lead to more sustainable transport solutions.
Thanks ITS the harmful effects of cars to the environment can be decreased significantly. Features predicting traffic and weather conditions are not only good for safety reasons, but also because they optimize the route you take and hence decrease the emissions your vehicle will let out during longer travel or idle time.
Going beyond the usage of private automobiles, sustainability can be achieved on much larger scales. Environmental issues, such as climate change, are tightly related to ITS. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America predicted that ITS “can achieve a 2 to 4 percent reduction in oil consumption and related greenhouse gas emissions each year over the next 10 years” as they penetrate the market. Thanks to Big Data and the intelligence behind the system, information can be gathered to encourage alternative modes of transport, too.
Connected public and cargo transport
It is not only the automakers that are initiating new projects towards higher vehicle connectivity.
Community and government organizations are also looking into optimizing technology into vehicles with the goal to improve safety and efficiency on the road. There’s no surprise that intelligent transport is something of an interest to government and municipality officials too.
Public transport has always been in need of technological features that would improve its efficiency and sustainability. Moreover, it needs to be more attractive to the community. This is why it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a driverless shuttle bus is already in use in the Netherlands. Moreover, earlier in April this year, a convoy of six self-driving trucks made the first European cross-border trip, arriving in Rotterdam. The trip was still on a test-level, however, because there needs be some improvement into the communication technologies between trucks of different manufacturers.
When it comes to safety, competition between brands steps down in favor of cooperation. Intelligent Transport Systems will improve the image of public transport among the community and will lead to higher economic growth for their cities.
What came as a pleasant surprise to us, is that intelligent systems are being developed for cyclists as well!
The first smart connected biking systems are startup projects that are quickly expanding, winning prestigious awards, and gaining environmentalists’ respect.
Usually in the form of a mobile application that can be connected to your bike, the assistance comes in features such as auto-light sensors, route optimization, weather forecast or even smartphone charging! Quite similar to the car systems but quite impressive for a bike technology!
An initiative that involves bikes and technology is the partnership between Ericsson and Volvo, who joined efforts to create a connected bicycle. At CES 2015, the companies presented an execution of possible communication between a car and a bicycle. The technology showed how an alert can be sent from a connected car to a bike helmet to prevent collision.
What we love about intelligent transport is the fact that it benefits everyone involved in the transportation ecosystem – the people, the environment, and the government. It takes care of the passengers and drivers, while allowing for more sustainable transport, and simultaneously takes into account economic interests.
The current problem that seems to be holding everything back is that there isn’t a single solution serving as a common platform that is supporting all these emerging services. Currently, any new technological intelligence requires specific training and all people who have access to it need the necessary instructions in the application and usage.
Wouldn’t it be nicer to have one single intelligent platform? Maybe. But it would also come with its risks and insecurities. For now, we are in the position to learn and observe where intelligence and connectivity will go next. The global Intelligent Transportation System market is expected to exceed $35 billion by 2020. So could we even guess how much further ITS will change transportation? Apparently, this is just the beginning.