How smart cities are transforming driving

A fully integrated smart city will relegate the daily commute to one of smooth and effortless travel, reducing human involvement and making getting to work more safer seamless.

totem power smart city
Credit: Totem Power

Cities are getting smarter, and it is impacting on the manner in which people drive. By leveraging information and communication technology to aid the interaction between infrastructures, they are fundamentally changing the way people move from A to B. As cities embrace smart technology, it will likely improve traffic congestion, secure the roadways and open up the inner cities.

In addition to advantages regarding safety and congestion, there are benefits for the environment as a whole with regard to the noise and emission reduction that smart cities promise. From better parking arrangements to safer roads, there are numerous ways in which connected vehicles, used within smart cities, can transform the driving experience. Here are a few of them.

What is a connected vehicle?

Connected vehicles comprise many smart sensors providing the ability to sense, analyse and make decisions based on incoming information from the environment. They can optimize traffic navigation and autonomously avoid accidents or hazards.

IoT-enabled communication systems allow remote software updates and mechanical issue reporting such that the motor companies can respond efficiently and enhance vehicular performance. The interconnectivity of these devices also allows more effective logistics management.

The real advantage of autonomous driving is taking human error out of the equation. The automobile death rate is 1.2 million per year and 90 percent is attributed to human error. Connected vehicles have sensors to effectively judge distance, speed and terrain and consequently better equipped to deal with an emergency scenario as they do not have an emotional response to the situation.

How connected vehicles will transform the driving experience

Connected vehicles have the potential to radically change the way we drive. UK statistics claim that in some cities parking areas cover over a third of available land and privately owned cars spend 95 percent of their time not in use. This will dramatically change as cities evolve into a smarter paradigm, negating the need for parking spaces and parkades.

Are smart cities making travel safer?

Integration of city wide smart sensors can potentially keep the roads safer to traverse. Apart from hazard detection, such as ice formation and flooding, which can aid drivers to adjust their prospective routes accordingly; smart sensors can detect problems with the roads themselves such as road surface deterioration. 

Machine learning can help alleviate congestions and predict under which circumstances accidents occur, and consequently adjust the traffic lights and road traffic patterns to avoid such eventualities. The self-driving cars themselves will have the ability to be cognizant of each other and thus be able to make the necessary adjustments to travel with a collective awareness, reducing road accidents by 70 percent.

In emergency situations, the connected car has the ability to react more timeously and without emotion to avoid or reduce the impact of an impending accident. Humans get distracted, or make the wrong choice in an emergency where the vehicle will judge accurately based on situational input from the sensors.

Better parking in the smart city

Much of the congestion and bottlenecks found in city centres are the direct result of vehicles circulating while searching for parking. Their attention is on finding a space and not necessarily on pedestrians and other motor vehicles using the road. Smart cities have a solution for this in the form of alerts and directions to parking spaces integrated with the connected car. Not only will this help people find parking faster, but lighten some of the congestion, reduce fuel consumption and consequently lessen pollution levels.

An innovation, called smart parking, is already in service in some cities with self-parking vehicles, specialised autonomous vehicle parking lots and robotic valets. An example in Melbourne, Australia, utilises lasers and a robotic valet to efficiently park vehicles. The vehicles are transported to a racking system which allows four times the number of cars to be parked thus reducing the amount of space needed for the parking garage.

This will open up city areas that can be used for environmentally friendly purposes, such as recreational parks and green spaces.

Smart cities to diminish noise pollution and the roads themselves

With autonomous vehicles and smart traffic sensors, there will be a reduction in the use of sirens and emergency vehicle noise. Traffic routing technology of connected vehicles will either route the emergency vehicles around traffic or notify the cars of the approaching vehicle, moving them out of the way in a secure manner.

In a truly smart city, where traffic is moving optimally with no human error to deal with, there will be a reduced need for roads. This efficiency will result in increased space for parks, gardens, pedestrians and bicycles.

Smart cities are going to be part of the very near future and the effect on the way people traverse the roads will be dramatic. A fully integrated smart city will relegate the daily commute to one of smooth and effortless travel, reducing human involvement and thus making getting to work a safer and more seamless event.

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