Blind people behind the steering wheel, and other future traffic trends

Now that the Summer holidays have begun, traffic jams are more reasonable. But they are still there! This always raises the question of what traffic will look like in a couple of years, as the number of cars on the roads keeps increasing.

Guest blog by Luc Vasseur, Client Executive bij SAS

As a technology lover, I am quite positive about the future of traffic. First of all, there is of course a huge growth in home working and teleworking that lowers the burden on the morning and evening traffic rush. But that’s not all that technology can do to improve our lives on the traffic front. Let’s have a look at some of the trends that we can already see happening or that may very well happen in the near future. And, obviously, analytics is never far away, no matter what trend you look at.

  1. Car ownership is so 2015

    You may be pro or contra Uber, but the huge success of this new way of driving has left us all thinking about the concept of car ownership. What if you didn’t need to own a car to enjoy the same mobility as you do today? What if sharing cars was as simple as stepping into your own car? It’s just a matter of knowing where you need to go at what time, and you can have a car (and driver) available when needed. What’s the role of analytics in this story? You should ask Uber: they will tell you that the entire system of flexibility and availability relies heavily on tons of data being available real-time so that the passenger can be offered the quickest and most efficient solution available.

  2. Public transport, from door to door

    One of the obstacles on the road to a broader adoption of public transport, is in the practical limitations of each type of public transport. Trains, trams and subways are not hindered by traffic jams, but are limited to the available tracks. Buses have a broader range and higher independence, but can also be stuck in a traffic jam, even with all the bus lanes available today. I believe that the future of public transport will be defined by mini-buses that are more flexible, need fewer passengers to be profitable and can provide a door-to-door service. Not so impressive, you might think, but it becomes more interesting when you start to combine the different types of transport into the best possible solution for any passenger on any given time (sync with your calendar) to any destination. This requires real-time data and analytics.
  3. Driver-less driving...

    The future of driving does not belong to the drivers. This is true for all forms of public transport, but it also applies to any other car. Everybody has heard of the many experiments with automated cars. The Google Cars, for instance, have become synonymous with driver-less driving. In the California area, nobody even raises an eyebrow when a car passes by without a driver behind the steering wheel. And they prove to be very reliable: even after hundreds of thousands of kilometers, the number of accidents caused by self-driving cars is limited to ... just one. It inspired Google to take their experiment to the next level. Earlier this year they offered a driver-less drive to a blind person, who was absolutely thrilled with the experience and with the prospect of becoming far more independent if he could rely on such car from now on.  

  4. ... Is safer driving

    Driver-less cars will not be for the immediate future, because the national authorities usually require a licensed person to sit behind the steering wheel. This is very likely to change in the next few years, however, when the legislators are confronted with the reality, as evidenced by the figures: self-driving cars are far safer ‘drivers’ than us humans. So the ugly truth is that the biggest danger for a future with self-driving cars lies in the presence of other cars navigated by humans. And we cannot expect humans to give up all control of their steering wheel, not even in a more distant future. An alternative solution would be to provide traffic lanes for the self-driving cars, where the likelihood of collisions with human-driven cars is even lower than in regular traffic. An analytics-driven car is far more reliable than a car driven by humans, who are not only guided by tons of experience, but also by non-controllable factors such as emotions, distraction, tiredness and - in some cases - sheer testosterone. 

  5. Drones for deliveries

    Last but not least: everybody will have noticed the dramatic increase of delivery vans with logos of famous delivery services such as UPS, DHL or KPN.NL. They are a direct manifestation of the rising succes of e-commerce in the latest decade. But they also contribute to even more traffic on the roads. What if we could take away most of these vans and have them replaced by drones delivering them straight to our doorstep via air traffic? It would speed up deliveries and get a lot of traffic off the roads. But, much like the self-driving cars, this will require huge amounts of real-time and historic data before we can ensure safe air traffic conditions.

The future of traffic will be highly technology-driven. And within that technology, the use of data will often make the difference between a successful initiative and a major setback in enabling the traffic of the future. We, for one, will do our very best to make the future happen sooner rather than later.