By Eric-Mark Huitema
In order to transform transportation systems, we must first commit to fully understanding them and their millions of data points in constant motion.
Rebuilding the transportation infrastructure from scratch isn’t feasible. Rather we must improve upon existing systems using the multitude of data our industry generates; reconciling information such as what, where and when we move; how a particular model of vehicle performs in a variety of environments; and how many cars versus public transport options are on the road at any given location or any given time.
All of this must then by synchronized in real-time, no small task given that there are more than one billion vehicles on the road in the world today. That’s why while walking the show floor at the World Congress on Intelligent Transport Systems this week I was encouraged to see a unified vision and passion to make every aspect of transportation more intelligent.
For cities and populations to really benefit from this sort of information, car manufacturers need to work with transportation agencies, emergency responders and city planners to collect, integrate and share data. If a car breaks down on the freeway, sensors installed in the vehicle could pick up on the problem and immediately notify traffic authorities of a possible slowdown. Other drivers on the road could be warned of traffic almost instantaneously, instead of waiting until they’re stuck in gridlock, after bypassing an alternative route.
Just as the Internet was first made up of a network of computers, a network of smart devices makes up the internet of things, and it will fundamentally change how we move, and more importantly, how we live. It probably sounds like a vision of the distant future, but in reality it’s just around the corner.
This week we announced an engagement with the Agência de Transporte do Estado de São Paulo (ARTESP), the regulatory agency that oversees public transportation for the State of São Paulo, to create the InformationControlCenter. The center will unify traffic data, incident management and service delivery to ensure safer and more efficient travel for a population of 20 million across 271 cities.
IBM’s Smarter Transportation technologies will help the agency improve supervision of nearly 4,000 miles of state highways, something previously done only through physical inspections.
The implications of gleaning unified and timely information are tremendous, and not just for traffic management. Insight from this data would improve road safety, likely saving countless lives. City planners and transit agencies could use the data to build new housing developments or public transportation routes; emergency responders and law enforcement officials could get a more accurate sense of how to use their resources.
The data would also be a boon for auto manufacturers, who would get a detailed understanding of how their cars perform in a variety of environments, since the devices could collect braking, acceleration and location-based data. There’s also a trickle-down effect for a wide range of industries, including airlines, airports, retailers or even healthcare providers, who could use blood pressure or heart rate data collected by the car through the seat belt, steering wheel, drivers’ seat and so on.
Making our industry more intelligent is a great aspiration. Now it’s time to take up the tools we need to make it more than just a vision, but a reality.
Big Data, Analytics and Mobile technologies are having an impact throughout our industry already, and unifying these capabilities will make Intelligent Transport Systems truly smart, and not in name only.
Lead Photo Credit: Graciela Pierre