Transportation management is one of the more enduring issues in the world today. As cities expand and become more urbanized, the more inefficient and congested transportation networks in those areas become. This creates a large amount of stress on both the city’s infrastructure and its citizens. Moreover, it also hampers the growth and prosperity of the businesses established in that city, mostly due to the frequent transaction delays caused by constant traffic jams.
Thankfully, novel technologies are constantly being developed to help cities all over the world manage their transportation systems better. Such breakthroughs not only help city governments gain a better grasp of the traffic situation in their areas of jurisdictions, but they also contribute in the improvement of the quality of life of the city’s denizens,either by assisting in the improvement of urban infrastructure or by making public transportation more accessible to people. In this article, we’ll discuss some of the advances in more detail so you’ll be able to appreciate them better.
Driving and navigational apps
One proven way to help alleviate traffic congestion is to provide real-time information when it comes to available routes, current traffic speed, accident on the road, and so on. By having this information on hand, a motorist can plan their route much more effectively and make adjustments when necessary. This will allow them to reach their destination quicker and thus stop contributing to the amount of traffic on certain roads that are already over-utilized.
While many city governments all over the world are on track to installing the expensive infrastructure and technology necessary for such a service, companies that employ real-time data analytics are already helping provide something similar. The Google-acquired Waze, for example, is a software company that utilizesreal-time data from its app’s user base to provide up-to-date information regarding the condition of local roads.
Waze can automatically recommend the best routes that their users can take in order to reach their destinations faster. Such routes usually involve shortcuts and alternative roads that the user may not have originally known about and would have discovered only through using the app. Conversely, Waze would not have known about these shortcuts and alternate routes had it not been for their users feeding information about the roads.
Besides benefiting the motoring public in general, all of this information can also be accessed by city governments and law enforcement authorities, helping them determine accident-prone spots in their road networks. Moreover, it allows them to discover traffic bottlenecks and other problematic areas, which they can then try to find solutions for.
Smart parking initiatives
Another effective measure to reduce traffic congestion is to provide easier access to parking spaces. Often, motorists have to spend an inordinate amount of time looking for appropriate parking once they reach their destination. This forces them to remain on the road, driving around until they finally find a parking space. Obviously, this contributes to the amount of traffic congestion on roads and public spaces.
Some cities in the US are hoping to address this issue by experimenting with smart parking garages. These garages employ vehicle detection and reporting systems, which work in tandem to detect just how many vehicles are currently parked inside the facilities. This information is analyzed and fed into a system of large LED signs outside of the garage, which then notifies motorists on whether or not the garage is fully occupied, or if there are available parking spaces within.
The benefit that smart parking garages offer in terms of transportation management are twofold. First, it immediately informs those looking for parking spaces on whether their chosen parking garage does have unoccupied slots, cutting down on their guesswork and circuitous driving while also alleviating traffic congestion. Second, the vehicle detection system builds a database of information over time, which the city management and planning authorities can then analyze in order to glean specific insights when it comes to deciding on whether or not to build more parking facilities.
Adaptive traffic control systems
Adaptive traffic control technology is a system that revolves around the use of real-time data to manage the timing of traffic lights. Such a system works by employing sensors placed along roads to analyze traffic conditions in real time. Depending on the amount of traffic measured by these sensors, the adaptive signal control system can adjust the timing of the traffic lights in order to facilitate a more efficient flow of traffic. For example, a smart traffic control system can prevent unnecessary starting or stopping of traffic, which then reduces not just fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance costs but also air and noise pollution.
This particular transportation management technology is already in place in quite a few major cities in the US, and has helped massively in cutting down congestion and travel times. For example, one such system was implemented by the New York State Department of Transportation and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority on nine intersections along the Veteran Memorial Highway on Long Island. This resulted in not only travel times being decreased by up to 19 percent, but also fuel consumption rates being cut by 2,429 gallons per dayand average emissions being reduced by 42 percent. Other major cities such as Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Antonio have also benefited from their own implementation of such systems as well.
Connected public transportation networks
Promoting public transportation is yet another great way to relieve traffic congestion. By having more commuters and travelers take public transportation such as trains, subways, and buses instead of driving their own vehicles, roads will be much less congested, resulting in shorter travel times as well as reduced stress on people and the environment.
Unfortunately, many are put off from taking public transportation because of how unpredictable their arrivals and departures can be. This makes them undesirable, especially for commuters who need to reach their intended destination within a strict time period. Such commuters are usually students, company employees, and government staff.
This is where connected public transit technology can help. This technology facilitates communication between the myriad components of the public transportation network and the general public, allowing the latter to learn more about the former, thus encouraging people to use the public transportation network more often. For example, by knowing the specific times when buses or trains are arriving, commuters can work their own schedule around those times and be able to take advantage of public transit more effectively. Receiving advance warning or notification about delays also helps eliminate uncertainty and anxiety among commuters, making them trust the public transportation system better and encouraging them to rely upon it more frequently.
We can already see this working in countries that have their public transportation systems refined to such a degree that the public relies on them more than private vehicles. Japan, for example, employs up-to-the-minute notifications and arrival predictions for their trains and buses to an almost clockwork degree. This has resulted in very little traffic congestion in their road networks.
Germany is another example, with the region of Ruhr having implemented a cloud-based intermodal transport control system (ITCS) provided by UK-based telephonics company T-Systems. This enabled passengers and business owners to have accurate and up-to-date predictions on the arrival times of all current forms of public transport.
Drones can also help alleviate traffic congestion by performing last-mile deliveries in place of trucks and motorcycle-riding couriers. This idea comes directly from Amazon, with the retail giant announcing its Prime Air service, wherein drones would be employed to deliver packages lighter than 3 kilograms to their customers’ doorsteps. While the service itself has not yet been actively rolled out, with extensive testing still needing to be done, Amazon promises a 30-minute delivery time with the service once it goes into full swing.
Using drones as delivery tools poses unique challenges, seeing as it involves the use of small aircraft carrying paid-for products across cities. For one, Amazon will have to figure out how to secure the drones they use from tampering or being stolen outright, as criminals may see them as a potential target for mischief or theft. For another, these drones may also be subject to inclement weather conditions, which could further compromise the safety and integrity of their cargo. Despite these challenges, however, the fact remains that their implementation could help cut down on the amount of vehicles on roads, which is always a good thing.
Driverless or autonomous cars
Finally, taking human drivers out of the equation and employing a transportation system that is fully autonomous can help with efficient transportation management as well. By relying on artificial intelligence to control and interlink vehicles on the road, vehicular issues such as speed variance and accidents caused by human error can be minimized or eliminated entirely. This then reduces traffic-disrupting incidents, creating a much more efficient flow of traffic.
Just like many of the advancements in this list, some headway has been made in driverless car technology, with companies such as Google and Tesla spearheading the effort. However, implementation remains limited, especially with consumer cars. The most progress has been made in the trucking industry, however, with automated trucks forecasted to make their appearance on US highways in the next five to ten years.
Technology: making transportation management easier and more efficient
The proper implementation of technology has made many challenges in our daily lives easier to deal with. While traffic congestion remains as one of the more enduring issues we have to constantly wrestle with every day, it’s good to know that there are technology-fueled advances being made to help reduce its impact on our cities and our environment. Hopefully, these developments will continue to progress into concrete solutions that can then be adopted and implemented worldwide.