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Emerging Technologies Article

Smart Cities Embrace Sustainable Transportation

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Local governments have started to take advantage of data, connected devices and tools afforded to us by modern technology to make their cities smarter. One of the crucial elements of a city, one that really helps it run, is its transportation.

Planners of smart cities have begun to embrace sustainable transportation as another way to make their cities more efficient, better places to live and, in the process, more environmentally friendly.

Fuels of the Future

The transportation systems of the future tend to use different fuels than the ones we’ve typically relied on in the past. Electric vehicles, including cars, trucks, trains and even bikes, are starting to become a more common sight. The electricity for this transport is coming increasingly from renewable resources as well, such as wind and solar, as well as natural gas, which is more eco-friendly than coal or oil.

Although these new sources of fuel will require some changes to our electric grid and the way we get around, they have the potentially to make transport quicker and more efficient. In Vienna, for example, electric buses can recharge via the overhead electric network they’re connected to. This reduces the weight of the battery needed to run the vehicles and allows them to operate more cheaply.

Making it easier for people to use non-powered travel can play a role as well. Bike shares have been popping up around the world, and redesigning roadways to encourage walking and biking encourages people to use zero-emissions transportation methods, while diversifying how people get around. All this can reduce traffic congestion.

The Power of Data

Smart cities are taking advantage of the vast amounts of data we now collect with our technology to make transportation more efficient and environmentally friendly.

This information can be used to improve the flow of traffic and help people get where they’re going faster. Connected vehicles can provide people with information about traffic incidents, busy areas and other issues in order to help them choose the fastest route.

Modern technology also gives people access to detailed information about things like their driving habits and fuel use. Having access to this data can help people drive more efficiently and learn more about their travel habits. Technology can even offer input on how to improve travel habits.

More Than Just Moving People

Smart, sustainable transportation systems can greatly improve the way that people get from one place to another, but can also improve other aspects related to how a city operates.

For example, data on traffic patterns, traffic incidents and inclement weather can help government officials determine the best times and routes for moving hazardous waste. Data can help them figure out what time of the day the roads are least busy, as well as help them avoid potentially dangerous situations such as accidents and storms. Waste could also be transported on systems totally separate from other traffic, so as to avoid any possible problems.

Delivery of packages and materials can also benefit from smart technologies. This is not a negligible part of traffic. Delivery trucks make up 17 percent of all traffic in London. Access to data can help mail carriers plan routes more efficiently and reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Using a smartphone to track a package can also help carriers and customers meet at the right time and avoid missed deliveries, which can necessitate a repeat trip.

As transportation systems in cities are getting smarter, they’re also often getting more sustainable. Access to more and better data, new types of transportation and new fuels are changing the way we get from place to place. It will certainly be exciting to see how drastically things change as tech and environmental improvements continue to occur.

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