Will the internet end all traffic jams?

When you’re stuck in a traffic jam wreathed in fumes or squeezed onto a sweltering commuter train, the promised future of a smart, efficient transport system may seem like an unrealistic dream.

But optimistic technologists assure us relief from this gridlocked hell is closer than we think. It’s all down to the “internet of moving things” – cars, buses, bikes, trains, and planes laden with sensors beaming data to a big brain in the cloud.

The better we know where everything is, the better we can manage traffic flows and optimise routes, avoiding congestion, accidents and natural hazards, the argument goes.

Faster deliveries

“The internet of moving things is giving us whole new sets of data,” says Shiva Shivakumar, chief executive of Urban Engines, a specialist in urban mobility data.

“Delivery companies, taxis, travel cards, smartphones, and connected cars are all pushing movement data to the cloud which we can then mash up with real-world maps to create a space/time engine,” he says.

“Transport providers from Singapore to Sao Paulo can now analyse journeys trip by trip and understand why a bus was late, spot where there is unused capacity or see opportunities for new routes.”

Mr Shivakumar, a former Google engineer, says his firm has been able to help delivery companies in San Francisco optimise their routes in real time, testing different scenarios based on current traffic flows and weather conditions.

Saving lives

German vehicle manufactures BMW, Audi and Daimler – are busy mapping the road networks of major cities around the world using laser technology, or lidar. It has a fleet of hi-tech camera cars much as Google does.

This kind of technology can perceive road markings, lane widths, and concrete barriers, says Vice-president Aaron Dannenbring, to create a “precise, reference index of the road system globally”.

“But we also need a dynamic map that reflects everything that’s happening on the road. So by connecting other vehicles to our cloud platform we can capture how the traffic situation is changing.” But what will this actually achieve? Will we be able to manage the traffic to only let a certain number of vehicles on the road or what?

With these continual advances within data and technology our roads should become less congested and safer.

For more road safety news, tips and advice go to the www.Saferessexroads.org website and follow us on Twitter @SaferEssexRoads

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