Driverless cars are quickly becoming the buzz in "connected" transportation today. But before our roadways are ready for this kind of alternative transportation initiative, we need to take a hard look at the technology being used behind the scenes to make decisions about important changes to our roadways that will accommodate these inventions.
When it comes to Department of Transportation (DOT) projects at either the state or local level, data drives the decision – and the adoption of innovations like driverless vehicles. As public organizations with the tremendous responsibility of planning, managing and maintaining our most vital roadways, DOT executives are making funding decisions that carry almost unimaginable price tags. In fact, each year, nearly $200 billion is spent on transportation-related infrastructure, according to the American Road & Transportation Builders Association.
To spend responsibly, DOT authorities need access to the most comprehensive decision-making data available, and they need that data to be captured by sophisticated tools like IP video surveillance camera systems and turned into usable information by computing solutions that can help them make reliable predictions and prepare our transportation systems for the incredible technological innovations on the horizon.
Clearly, technology is becoming an increasingly important part of the fabric of America's transportation system. Where highways once grappled with how to create a flashing "detour" sign with a single data stream, to support driverless vehicles and other similar innovations, today's most traveled roadways will soon require full Internet connectivity, which means industrial-grade, fully functional, ruggedized, Internet-ready networks uniquely housed either underground or sparsely protected from the elements by freeway overpasses will need to be designed, deployed and managed. It's a whole new level of technological sophistication that requires streaming massive amounts of live data from traffic systems throughout the country to the cloud, then using data analytics to help make sense of what has been captured.
To understand the reasons technology is critical to smart transportation projects, consider these three important truths.
1. Strategic thinking delivers long-range plans
DOT CIOs must resist the urge to buy technology reactively; always think three to five years into the future. How, for example, will you prepare your state or municipality for driverless cars and other automated transportation initiatives? Will you employ IoT devices and sensors to deliver data from street lights, stoplights and train crossings – and what role will IoT play in helping driverless vehicles recognize landmarks, guard rails and street edges? If you invest strategically today, your budget will stretch farther tomorrow.
2. Connected transportation makes your job easier
Cameras and IoT devices are weaving a giant connected, "smart" network throughout America's system of highways. Not only will these devices help you with state and local traffic analyses and predictions, but they'll provide a web of eyes and ears that can alert you to broken bridges, congested off-ramps, and emergency repairs that require immediate attention, allowing DOT employees to be used more strategically.
3. The public dictates change
The way citizens choose to travel dictates the need for roadway expansions, new high-occupancy or toll lanes, or driverless vehicle infrastructure adaptations. As a result, DOT CIOs need to understand public demand in order to accommodate it, and technology can help deliver the information required to make the needed decisions about transportation change.
Adam Petrovsky is GovEd Practice Leader at Logicalis US.