Road traffic 2.0

A lot of people and animals are killed and injured in road traffic, road vehicles impact our environment significantly and road traffic is an important part of efficient transportation of people and goods. With the key promises of M2M being safety, sustainability and efficiency there is a perfect match between road traffic and M2M. A lot of research projects are on-going and part of the overall efforts towards the ITS (Intelligent Transportation Systems) vision.

The air traffic system has for many years been developed aiming towards zero accidents. This process has made air traffic very safe and I am told that most of the remaining accidents are caused by human beings. The use of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) and UCAV (Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle) is increasing mainly to avoid dull, dirty or dangerous flying missions. We have for example all heard about drone attacks (military planes without pilots) in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

If we can fly helicopters and aircrafts without pilots we must be able to modernize the road traffic to make it safer, more friendly to nature and more efficient. And even if humans cause many or maybe most of the problems on the road we still don’t feel comfortable putting ourselves in the hands of technology on the roads or in the air. But this will change. The technical solutions are ahead of what we are willing to accept but carefully managed real life trials together with clear and big benefits will slowly make us humans agree to start using new solutions.

There are many advanced research projects in road traffic continuously pushing the frontier forward. Earlier this summer Volvo successfully led a road train consisting of a Volvo XC60, a Volvo V60 and a Volvo S60 behind a truck on a 200 km journey through Spain as part of SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for Environment). The cars outfitted with cameras, radars and laser sensors were six meters apart and drove safely 85 km/h without any driver interference. The vehicles in the test have covered some 10.000 km on test circuits before the trial. Beyond improved safety and sustainability road trains would allow us drivers to put a professional driver in command for a while, take a bite, check our mail and take a nap before taking control of the car again. Sounds great!Another interesting project is Google Driverless Cars. In May 2012 the first license for a self-driven car was issued in Nevada: a Toyota Prius modified with Google’s experimental driver-less technology. The team just announced that they have completed over 300,000 autonomous-driving miles accident-free, typically have about a dozen cars on the road at any given time, and are starting to test them with single drivers instead of in pairs.

ITS World Congress 2012 in Vienna October 22-26 is an interesting event for anyone interested in where road traffic is going. I’ll be there!

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