Transportation drives economic and societal progress. As it has from time immemorial. This rings especially true when it comes to the heavy-duty equipment that drives big enterprises around the world. Only now, it’s all moving forward at the rapid speed of the continuous advancement of transformative technology that could change the entire road ahead in the near future. A recent government report shows that within only three to five years, innovative tech applications may begin to have significant impacts on entire transportation systems and any vehicle-propelled industries.So what lies ahead? The recent report issued by Volpe from the U.S. Department of Transportation outlines 11 tech factors soon to hit the streets—or already on the road—that could significantly impact the way the world moves.
These emerging technologies, “Represent a sampling from a broad cross section of industries and disciplines; collectively, they could affect all major modes of transportation in the United States and enable new approaches to resolving longstanding problems in transportation, such as safety, network efficiency, and mobility for all users.”
Let’s take three of these tech advancements out for a test drive—and examine their impacts on the sensor and safety sector—especially for heavy-duty applications.
#1: Internet of Things
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of interconnected, uniquely identifiable devices—like sensors, actuators, and communication technologies. This enables interactive control functions between devices and external operators or systems. With improved contextual awareness from the broader IoT, operators and even their equipment could know more about what’s going on around them. They could use big data tools to analyze contextual data and predict hazards.
The heavy-duty equipment industry is already well-positioned to make the most of this technology. With crews that include engineers, logistical experts, and operational support, industries like construction have already done the hard work. So making the most of the IoT on the job may be easier than you think. Telematics do wonders on worksites with real-time data, from receiving automated triggers for repairs for equipment to tracking vehicle fleets to detecting road hazards.
#2: Machine Learning
Our transportation system runs on data, constantly produced about asset conditions, vehicle movements, and more. There’s enormous potential to improve transportation planning, management, and safety through real-time analysis and longer-term modeling based on this input. For example, sensors currently allow transit system operators to remotely monitor rolling stock equipment, enabling a risk-based approach to preventative maintenance and safety investigations.
A 2016 report on the future of jobs by the World Economic Forum unpacks the impact of this technology on industries like heavy-duty construction and extraction: “Technological disruptions such as robotics and machine learning—rather than completely replacing existing occupations and job categories—are likely to substitute specific tasks previously carried out as part of these jobs, freeing workers up to focus on new tasks and leading to rapidly changing core skill sets in these occupations.”
#3: Autonomous Vehicles
It’s not just in science fiction anymore. Autonomous vehicles are off and running on public roads. In these vehicles, at least some aspect of a safety-critical function, like the steering or braking, occurs without driver input. Most major automakers have announced plans to release partially or fully autonomous vehicles within a decade. One forecast suggests there will be 54 million automated vehicles by 2035.
The automated operation of construction, mining, and other large-scale vehicles could greatly improve work zone safety and efficiency. It’s easy to see how heavy vehicle industries will be adopting this technology in the future, perhaps even before consumer markets.
As Wolfgang Bernhard, the head of Daimler Trucks and Buses, stated when it revealed Highway Pilot Connect, the first semi-autonomous truck platooning system, “A revolution is taking place. We have a vision of the future where the entire transportation process is completely seamless. Where the flow of goods on the road is mirrored by the flow of information from the Internet in real time. Where the connected truck is the main data node at the center of the logistics network.”
Read more in the full DOT report—and keep your eyes on the road ahead.
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