Above: Traffic Light. Photo by luissantos84/Depositphotos
Lucy Boyd writes about technology’s role in making smarter streets as well as smarter cities.
The term ‘smart technology’ gets thrown around a lot these days, but it’s for a good reason. As smart tech starts to make inroads in Trinidad and Tobago, local tech companies as well as the local government are already seeing its enormous potential in transport and road safety.
Companies such as Massy, TTEC, and Sagicor are collaborating in developing an AI-competent workforce in the country. Experts suggest fast-tracking Intellectual Property generation and training data scientists to keep up with the global AI arms race. On the side of the government, legislators at the Works and Transport Ministry are looking at new reforms that aim to improve road safety.
All of these efforts will be crucial here in the country, as we have become notorious for dismissing road safety records. According to Angela Francke, a German transportation psychologist from the University of Dresden, Trinidad and Tobago sees 200 road fatalities every year.
She explained that the “problem is largely due to the fact that road safety is not taken seriously by most drivers in T&T.” This means that discipline on the road has a lot to do with the issue, and relying on technology is one viable solution.
But how exactly can smart technology improve road safety and discipline?
Smart technology can have a huge impact on managing the country’s road network. This can be seen in the smallest things, such as road lighting systems. For instance, take TTEC’s Street Lighting Project which aims to illuminate even small roads in the country.
The project has been criticized for lighting remote locations that do not need much lighting, such as the Cascade and Navet areas. These concerns can be addressed with smart lighting systems, where motorways will be fitted with smart lights that only turn on when a vehicle drives on the road.
This will make energy usage more efficient and will also address criticism towards over-lighting.
Another smart innovation is smart traffic management. IBM is working on a traffic management system that can calculate the optimum traffic patterns.
In other words, there will be smart traffic lights that can adapt to specific traffic situations (e.g. congested roads during rush hour) without any human intervention. Trinidad and Tobago can adopt this technology once it’s operational but it will be costly to roll out.
Smart traffic management also means there will be valuable information shared between the traffic system and the vehicles on the road. The Verge details how Audi’s vehicle-to-infrastructure system allows drivers to see a countdown on their dashboard. The solution can reduce human error due to miscommunication on the road.
The next step is to improve safety via monitoring vehicles remotely, an innovation which is already being used mainly on long-haul trucks. A truck owner can monitor the status of the vehicle on a mobile device while the truck is in transit. The information includes things such as the vehicle’s fuel and engine temperature, among other variables.
Managing large-scale fleets is crucial, because it can help businesses improve road safety through implementing transparency. Verizon Connect Australia details how driver management and safety software can monitor driver behavior or habits such as over-speeding, hard braking and accelerating too quickly.
All of these can compromise the safety of the driver, as well as other people on the road. A similar program could become a real game-changer in Trinidad and Tobago as the country is heavily dependent on industrialization and to a lesser degree, tourism, both of which rely on safe and effective transport systems.
More ambitious projects include intelligent traffic systems that can influence autonomous vehicle behavior. They can handle not only visual information within the vicinity of an interaction but all the data within the network.
These optimized and fully adaptive road systems aren’t only governed by traffic lights but by contextual logic, as well. The technology can be seen in shared spaces in the UK where there are no traffic lights.
In shared spaces, vehicles take the fastest and safest route just like a pedestrian. If AI becomes sufficiently advanced, these kinds of innovations can transform traffic, as we know it.
Technology is becoming more important in daily life. And perhaps what’s more significant is that technology can actually save lives. If these smart solutions can make our roads even a little bit safer, then we ought to give them at least a try.
Guest writer Lucy Boyd is a blogger with a passion for cars. She has been a petrol head since she could drive, and hopes to inform her readers on the latest in automobile news. Recently she has been investigating how technology is changing our roads and why this is a good thing.