Social trends and technology are converging in innovations that could change the way people travel – be it by car, train, plane or bus.
IBM, which has been studying the transport problem at IBM Labs, says that 9-billion gallons of fuel are wasted in traffic congestion every year. In addition, car accidents cost hundreds of billions of dollar. Meanwhile, the number of airline passengers is expected to double by 2020, soaring to an annual rate of more than 7-billion worldwide.
In the next two years, IBM expects that these statistics will change through technology innovations in the following ways:
* Our cars will be able to sense other cars and avoid hazardous road conditions. The future is collaborative driving. Cars in the near future will have driver-assist technologies that will make it possible for automobiles to behave as if they have ‘reflexes’. Vehicles will exchange information with each other and with the road infrastructure, take corrective action where appropriate, and provide essential feedback to the drivers. Highway and city merging and traffic flow will be smoother and safer and harmful emissions will be reduced.
* Travellers will get notifications of train and bus delays via cell phone. In the near future a new technology will call or text message riders to alert them when the next bus or train is due to arrive. Using sensors, GPS technology and in-vehicle communications, an innovative transport system will send notifications of train and bus delays, or if an alternative route will be faster or more convenient. The same systems will allow schedulers to make real-time route corrections, making “bus bunching” a thing of the past.
* Drivers will converse with their cars. Increasingly sophisticated voice recognition systems will allow drivers to get real-time flight updates, read and respond to emails, get directions, avoid accidents, play DVDs or select music through simple, conversational voice commands. Voice recognition navigation and entertainment systems also will allow drivers to adjust cabin temperature or call home while keeping hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.
* Cities will find the cure for congestion. Intelligent traffic systems will make real-time adjustments to traffic lights to ease congestion and clear paths for emergency vehicles. New sensor technologies, GPS and satellites will provide info to motorists on the best routes to avoid driving and parking during peak busy hours. Fewer traffic jams will result in cleaner air and safer roads.
* Travellers will gain control over route changes and get a better handle on lost luggage. The location of jets, crews and airport gates will be optimised as a smart system “foresees” delays and re-routes passengers before they get stranded at the airport. Kiosks will give travellers control over route changes and a unified airline/airport system will enhance security while dramatically cutting baggage handling errors.
“Transportation researchers and strategists at IBM are concerned that the cure for transportation problems is not building more roads or adding flights,” says George Pohle, strategy vice-president at IBM. “IBM thinks emerging technologies – especially in communications – will make travel safer, more streamlined and able to accommodate ever-increasing growth demands.”