The Internet of Things (IoT) has not become an overnight success story, but what we are increasingly seeing is that it is being used for more and more things. From smart thermostats through to oil pipeline maintenance, it is having a profound impact on the world and we are going to see it slowly permeating through even more of our lives.
One of these elements is going to be in how it is used in transport across the world. We take a look at some of the most important elements that it will affect.
Google has been the most visible protagonists behind the development of the self-driving car, but we are increasingly seeing companies like Nissan, Ford, and Volvo experiment with the technology. The whole process is being driven by the IoT, from collision avoidance through to suspension settings in different driving conditions.
The ability for sensors to measure and make micro-adjustments is at the core of the self-driving revolution and it is something that is going to become commonplace on our roads. Kevin Ashton, the founder of MIT's Auto-ID Center, even believes that by 2030 everybody will have self-driving cars. However, the use of the IoT needs to be properly managed and mistakes like we have seen with the Jeep Cherokee, where brakes and steering could be controlled from outside the car, eradicated.
Supply Chain Efficiency
Whilst self-driving cars will be useful for moving people from place to another, transporting goods makes up a significant amount of road use, with 15.5 million lorries operating in the US alone. The IoT has the potential to impact this transport of goods considerably, offering increased traceability, security, and safety for goods whilst in transit.
We have seen with the use of RFID tracking labels that it is possible to track exactly where items are at any time, their state, and whether they are being adequately stored. For instance, a manufacturer would be able to see that an item is being transported at the wrong temperature and damaging it or potentially causing quality issues for the end user. We have seen the potential that this kind of technology has with work done by Johnnie Walker, who have created a proof of concept for their application to help prevent counterfeiting and theft in transit.
Quicker and Safer Journeys
The use of the IoT in transport could also have a profound impact on the amount of time journeys take.
At present, journeys can take significantly longer due to congestion, with US commuters reportedly spending 42 hours every year stuck in traffic. Through using the IoT and planning smart routes and avoiding human error that causes congestion, this number will be considerably reduced. Much is caused by innocuous things like driving too close to the person in front, driving too fast or being in the wrong lane at junctions. Using sensor-driven technologies, these would not longer be an issue and this there will be fewer holdups and decreased journey times.
However, elements that impact on journey time also have implications on road safety. The most accurate study to date on road traffic accidents, the Tri-Level Study of the Causes of Traffic Accidents published in 1979, showed that 90-93% of all accidents occurred due to human error. So far during tests of over 1 million miles, Google's self-driving car fleet has only had one accident that it caused and even that was a 2mph brush against the side of a bus. Over 3000 deaths per year are caused on the roads due to human error, given the evidence so far, this number would be hugely reduced.
Improved Public Transport
The use of the IoT is not just going to benefit cars and lorries, it will have a significant impact on all forms of public transport too.
We have already seen this in many cities, with London utilizing smart public transport better than almost any city in the world. TFL, the company responsible for organizing public transport in the UK capital introduced their Oyster Card system in 2003, which not only made using public transport considerably easier (it is simply just pressing a card against a card reader rather than buying a ticket) but allowed them to collect a huge amount of information about the journeys being taken on their network.
It allows journey times, congestion, common routes and hundreds of more useful data points to be analyzed and acted upon. It meant that the system could cope with the additional 2 million people in 2012, closures of key infrastructure points such as Putney Bridge and redevelopment work at stations like London Bridge. Through analyzing the data from individuals, it also became possible to send out personalized emails outlining disruption to routes they often take.