Expert thoughts on the future of transportation

By Maureen Aylward

Transportation is going through a transformation: hybrid cars, high-speed rail service, light rail. We were curious to know what our experts think about the future of transportation and what it might look like.

Mark Roser, a specialist in developing corporate innovation processes and programs in the US, says technology that generate data is already available and provides transportation intelligence that is an important factor in the evolution of the industry. Transportation intelligence is a combination of several types of technology:

  • Internet provides global communication,
  • GPS provides location and vehicle speed data,
  • Dedicated short-range communications provide vehicle-to-vehicle feedback, and
  • On-board diagnostics sensors and prognostics algorithms are increasingly placed in vehicles.

Roser believes that this expansion in data will change how road traffic is managed, how vehicle drive performance is optimized to match specific routes and vocations, and how highway congestion is managed to offset the increase in vehicles on the road.

“We will see a significant increase in collaboration between original equipment manufacturers, sensor manufacturers, wireless providers, fleets, entrepreneurs, and government agencies over the coming years to translate these data into meaningful systems,” Roser says. “What will be most interesting is seeing who will take a leading role in organizing the collaborations that shape the future of transportation.”

Sparky is a maker of hybrid buses and a planner for the Intermountain Guideway in Colorado. “My work focuses on the various technologies of light rail. It seems like the monorail system has been forgotten as an option,” Sparky says. “One big reason monorail has been out of contention is that planners focus on using existing railroad right of ways and vehicles that fit the current track technology.”

But, Sparky thinks that monorail is a great option and should be revisited. “There are a lot of issues to solve in making a useful public transport system. There seems to be renewed interest in different types of vehicles but the financial realities seem to win,” he says. “Light rail could act as something like neighborhood trains and trolleys that have long since vanished.”

Sparky points out that as population increases, more people will turn to public transportation as their mode of movement. “There may be some growth in bus and train riders, which follow the population, but things need to change if we are to get cars off the road. Better planned cities would reduce the number of personal vehicles, but good plans that work need to be proposed,” he says. “The way to increase efficiency to the transportation system, whether it is cars, trains, buses, or airplanes, is to manage the infrastructure.”

By Maureen Aylward

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