The United States National Highway System (NHS) is an impressive network of road, byways, and interstates that allow people and goods to travel just about anywhere they need to go in North America. Impressive though it is – our national system is being pushed beyond it’s limits these days creating bottle-necks, traffic delays, and colossal inefficiency.
Though it might be tempting to disregard these inefficiencies as a normal cost of business, the fact is it just might be costing you money. In fact, in a 2018 industry study, it was reported that every American citizen is impacted with an average of $1,377 costs per year in wasted time, with many times more at a business level due to supply chain inefficiencies.
While there’s several factors contributing to transportation delays on the NHS, we wanted to focus – using the lens of technology – on those inefficiencies caused directly by are the accidents, breakdowns, or otherwise stranded vehicles that, on a regular basis, unexpectedly tie up our already crowded highways.
If you consume technology-related articles like I do, you quickly realize most topics pertain in some way to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Smart Connected Systems (SCS), both of which are critical in the implementation of wide-scale driving automation.
AI or so-called “Smart Cars”, already on the road today, are required to navigate the complexities of driving, while SCS is the “secret sauce” in enabling automobiles to behavior as a singular neural network with the capability to respond to traffic issues in near real-time precision.
This technology is already closer than you think.
Image a scenario where an unforeseen accident occurs on your route, and you discover that the driving routes have instantaneously updated to navigate a path that is optimized to get you to your location the fastest.
Sound familiar? It should.
Direction Apps like Google Maps and Waze have been applying this SCS technology for years.
Now imagine instead where instead of the update occurring on an app, it actually updates the automated driving routes of all vehicles on the road, at the exact same time.
Integrating the AI mechanics of the car to the SCS capabilities already available with map applications on a mass scale will save countless hours on the road by optimizing the utilization of all roads
Automated Vehicle Recovery
Ask any towing service on the road today and they’ll tell you that vehicle recovery can be dangerous business, especially on the shoulders of our interstates where most of the roadside assistance calls occur.
Although it would be nice to think that a technology-driven future would completely eliminate the accidents, traffic delays, and breakdowns altogether, you can still expect unanticipated roadside events will still take place, (at least until we iron all the bugs out!)
Expediting the recovery process through “smart” recovery systems and driver-less vehicles will further optimize the traffic flow and get our tow truck technicians out of harm’s way.
What might this look like in practice?
Image a future where onboard vehicle computer systems will be able to immediately tell when an issue has transpired, alert a roaming fleet of tow trucks and connect with the closest available tow truck. Within minutes the tow truck is positioned to hoist the disabled vehicle onto the truck flat bed (using available automated parking technology) and then to the nearest repair shop.
The Human Factor
While the above scenarios are likely years out in the future, a more immediate solution to incident-related traffic can be realized in 2 ways:
- Employing simple common-sense habits at the personal level
- Infrastructure strategies at the local, state, and federal level that have proven to be an effective counter-balance to the increased congestion levels in key transportation arteries in the United States.
From a personal accountability perspective, individual drivers can reduce their chances of getting into an accident by simply driving the speed limit.
According to the latest mature data (2018) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), speed is the highest contributing factor to accidents on the road today accounting for 1/3 all accidents and 1/4 of all accident-related deaths. For traffic reduction, drivers can ride share, work from home, utilize available public transportation, and most importantly write to their representative and insist on a healthy public transportation system in their respective municipality.
Driving It Home
I think that we can all agree: traffic stinks.
It ranks down there with having a root canal. Although it may seem an innocuous inconvenience, traffic affects each and every one of us in real and substantial ways including wasted time and increased costs. One of the most frustrating and unpredictable of traffic causes are unplanned roadside incidents.
The good news is that a convergence of technologies in the near future will allow us to better utilize our roadways when unexpected traffic congestion occurs. Even better news – we’ve already got the toolkit of solutions in place to make an impact now.
INRIX: Congestion Costs Each American 97 hours, $1,348 A Year – Feb. 11, 2019 – INRIX, Inc.
One Click Towing Company: Towing Companies Urge Drivers to Follow ‘Move Over Law’ after Crash – May 31, 2019