Q1. Can and will IT really contribute to solving a few major problems road transport will face in the 21st century, like congestion, pollution, etc.?
A1. Yes, in fact there are Intelligent Transportation Initiatives in almost every major country which focus on how information technology can address growing problems of road congestion, pollution, road maintenance and increased use of public transportation. For example Telematics and Intelligent Transportation Systems can increase the utilization of roads by approximately 20%. Telematics connected vehicles and drivers can help a lot to reduce empty trips (today’s level of empty trips in Germany is around 50%) and with guided navigation systems we can reduce the pollution as well, because address searching and other unnecessary detours will be reduced to almost zero. In addition, there are production implementations of telematics systems, such as networkcar, that continuously check emissions data and notify the driver.
Q2. Which element of the transport system needs and will receive more IT support in the future: the road, the vehicle, the driver, the traffic control, rule enforcement, company management, etc.?
A2. All of them will receive IT support, but the priority is likely to 1) driver, 2) vehicle, 3) company management, 3) rule enforcement / police, 4) traffic control, and 5) road. It might be surprising that “road” is listed at the last position. But IT infrastructure at roads is always very expensive and with evolving technology and better price levels for vehicle on-board units, we will experience higher investment focus on vehicles and very few central Telematics / ITS service providers, who serve over the air.
Additionally, there is an ecosystem to consider in the implementation of Intelligent Transportation and Telematics initiatives. Information technology will be needed for all of the elements across the established value nets in order for it to work effectively. This is an area where IBM provides thought leadership with industry expertise on key business processes, effective business models, constructing value nets, transformational implications of extracting value from real time road and vehicle data, and leveraging on demand, etc..
Q3. Is it a dream for the industry to have one single On-board Unit in the cab which would be able to provide information for technical, management, fiscal and social rule enforcement, road safety, vehicle and cargo tracking . and God knows for what other purposes? In our nightmares the driver cannot look out of the windscreen covered by OBUs serving different purposes.
A3. Currently it is definitely a dream to have everything in a single on-board unit. Technically it wouldn’t be any problem to consolidate into one unit, but missing open standards and interest at suppliers to protect their business through proprietary implementations are the biggest hurdles. However, having everything in a single on-board unit may not be the most effective implementation for explosive adoption and exploitation of the computing power. Leveraging portable compute power and embedded sensors are also important in this evolution. IBM is pushing very hard to help the industry get to open standards.