The Future of Traffic Management: Transportation Challenges for Smart Cities
Published by Daniel Stofan on
According to the UN, in 2009, for the first time in human history, more people lived in cities than in rural areas in the world. Since then, things haven’t slowed down. As it currently stands, about 56% of the world’s population lives in cities. Studies have projected that by 2050, this number will grow to over two-thirds.
More People on the Road
What does this mean for traffic and transportation? It’s simple: more people in cities means busier roads. More vehicles to manage, more congestion, less parking space. It’s obvious that this isn’t possible using the same roads and transportation infrastructure we have available to us now.
Meanwhile, the Covid pandemic has put road traffic in a weird place these last couple of years. With lockdown orders and more people working from home, road traffic took an unusual dip. But Covid has by no means cleared urban streets. Cities that had busy roads in the past remained busy even at the height of Covid restrictions.
This is a scary trend for traffic management. With growing city populations, how can we expect to keep up with traffic demands when cities aren’t even able to handle Covid-levels of traffic?
The problem is obviously not about volume, it’s about efficiency of traffic management. The reality of it is that cities are nowhere close to making full use of what their roads can offer. Constant mismanagement and static control mechanisms unable to adapt to changing road conditions, are a big reason why we’re far from where we could be.
Going into 2022, it looks like Covid restrictions will loosen more and more, meaning that the slight relief roads were getting from Covid will disappear. Actually we saw that already in 2021, in most places the traffic was back to its pre-Covid levels and growing. All we’ll have left is the constant increase in urban populations, year on year.
Traffic managers won’t be able to take things easy and rely on old methods for much longer. Cities are growing, and with their growth and new ways of commuting put into the micro-mobility equation, new solutions are becoming more and more necessary to ensure roads are safe and traffic is moving efficiently.
Rising Costs of Travel
While transportation is becoming more and more accessible, prices are simultaneously going up in many areas. Gas prices are generally on the rise going into 2022, and this poses a big challenge to everyone, from everyday commuters to city planners. In the same vein, parking is becoming less available and more expensive in dense urban areas. The auto industry is more heavily investing in newer technologies, like AI and electric vehicles, than they were in previous decades and that is driving car prices up for the time being.
And that’s just for consumers. For municipalities, things can get much worse. With ever-increasing urban populations, roads require more and more maintenance. Previous inefficiencies in road management become more expensive the longer they are left unchecked, and with a lot of people going back to the office, some cities are in for a reality check.
Businesses have also suffered during COVID because of a shortage of drivers. The sudden increase in Ecommerce made the need for drivers bigger than ever, without many new ones becoming available, which naturally puts a strain on businesses’ logistics. To deal with this shortage, Ecommerce businesses have needed to ensure they make the most out of their drivers.
A big part of that has been finding ways to make a driver’s route as efficient as possible on a day-to-day basis. One of the most difficult parts of logistics is last-mile delivery, where a package goes through a city to reach a customer’s doorstep. It’s the most chaotic and unpredictable part of logistics, because each customer lives at a different location and on top, it happens to be the most congested part of the route.
This changes drivers’ paths on a daily basis, and is in dire need of optimization. Real-time traffic data is a great resource for shoring up some of the issues with last-mile delivery. It can help roads communicate directly with drivers’ vehicles and GPS systems to ensure drivers are always taking the most efficient and safe path on a minute-to-minute basis.
A lot of these price hikes are just temporary, though. There isn’t much that individual municipalities can do about gas prices, but they can make sure that vehicles are flowing smoothly across the city, using every drop of gas to its fullest capacity.
Proper traffic management can help reduce the impact that inefficiencies have on overall spending. The problem is that traditional methods are no longer enough for many cities to handle all these problems at the same time.
2022 will be a year of innovation and implementation for cities. They’ll look toward better technology to help them manage traffic better and drive down costs.
Keeping up with Other Industries
We’re seeing a lot of new technology enter the mainstream in other industries. Tesla is going strong with its electric smart cars, and logistics companies are integrating AI solutions to run businesses as smoothly as possible. This move toward AI-powered business is definitely here to stay, and we can only expect more of it for the next year.
One of the challenges the traffic and transportation industry will face is to keep up with these innovations. Traffic management is tightly linked to the automobile industry as well as the logistics industry.
One of the most exciting things to look forward to is the development of V2X (Vehicle-to-Everything) systems. Our vehicles and cloud solutions are getting closer and closer to being fully V2X ready. GoodVision too is aligned with this trend and serves as a reliable source of real-time traffic data and situation awareness information. But we also need our roads to be ready to support a proper V2X system. Given that roads are the most fundamental piece of infrastructure when it comes to transportation, the industry will need to make sure that it is on par, or even ahead, of others. It can sound intimidating, but there’s no better challenge than having to always stay ahead of the game!
Setting up Proper Infrastructure in Cities
While GoodVision prides itself on functioning on preexisting traffic monitoring infrastructure (video cameras and sensors), a lot of cities aren’t even equipped with the bare minimum.
How often are cities still using single-purpose sensors built into asphalt, or induction loop meters to gather traffic data? Too many are still relying solely on historical data, from last month, last year, or even last decade to make decisions. The technology is already available to us, but there aren’t as many “smart cities'' as we'd hoped there would be just yet.
In 2022, many municipalities will make the push into better traffic monitoring infrastructure through new investment into adaptive transportation management systems working with video sensors. Municipalities are generally apprehensive about initial investments, but the data is here and it’s very clear: cameras and sensors are not only more capable than traditional methods, but they’re also cheaper!
Spreading Awareness about Real-time Data and AI
Transportation and traffic are running into the problem that any tech-related industry runs into: they know their tech is useful, but it’s so hard to get the message across. Many decision-makers would be more than willing to go from traditional methods to state-of-the-art solutions, but more often than not they aren’t well-aware of the options available. Another one is the interoperability concern. I hear them saying “will it work with the rest of my systems“? Many of us are fatigued by lengthy implementations of the corporate systems from 20 years ago. Good news is that today the implementation of core transport management systems doesn’t take years of effort.
Going into 2022, companies in the transportation industry need to focus on spreading awareness about their products and solutions, showing the world that AI has its place in traffic management.
That’s why at GoodVision, we’ve committed to properly educating the public about the value of real-time data and AI-powered solutions in traffic management. Over the last year, we hosted regular webinars and workshops to help cultivate the public’s knowledge of the industry. Its problems, as well as the new solutions need to be addressed properly.
We regularly host webinars covering different topics in traffic management. You can have a look at the previous editions here. If you have any particular topic that you would like to learn about, you can reach out to us anytime at email@example.com