Smart transport: looking to a safer and greener future

In an increasingly globalised world where environmental issues are becoming impossible to ignore, our transport demands are rapidly changing. Satellite technologies have the potential to transform the way we use transport to make it more efficient, safer and kinder on the environment.

This is smart transport; the incorporation of modern technologies to improve our transport and logistic sector.

How does smart transport work?

Smart transport, or Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) uses information and communication technologies to digitalise transport infrastructure. For example, using wireless technology to facilitate the exchange of information between vehicles, drivers, passengers and transfer hubs.

It can also be used to develop things like car navigation, traffic signals and container management systems.

Exchanging data through space technology

Smart transport relies on the exchange of very large amounts of data. This is where satellite technology comes in. Satellite communication services can be used to transmit data more reliably and further reaching than terrestrial communications.

This data can be used to detect weather conditions, monitor vehicle battery life and direct diversions, among other things.

Smart transport in the future

While these technologies are already being used in our transport systems, there is a huge potential for advancement in the industry to improve efficiency, safety and sustainability.

Here, we outline some of the possible future uses of satellite technology and some of the projects already being developed.

The future of public transport

Public transport could look very different in the coming years thanks to the application of advanced satellite technologies.

The way we catch a bus, for example, could become a lot more convenient. In the future, it will be possible to send a signal from your phone to the bus detailing your location and pick up time so that the nearest vehicle can travel to collect you.

Maintenance and repair on public transport could also be vastly improved. Trains will be able to send data to a transfer hub with information about damages or overcrowding in certain carriages so that the train company can take action. This could provide a much needed boost in efficiency as problems could be tackled more swiftly.

Driving, communication and traffic accidents

If vehicles were able to receive data from transfer hubs, dangerous incidents such as traffic accidents could be detected more easily and potentially avoided.

For example, satellite technology could be used to detect adverse weather conditions so that all vehicles in the area are notified and satellite navigation could redirect them to the safest route.

If a traffic accident does occur, cars will be able to send a signal to the transport hub with the time and severity of the accident so the appropriate help can be sent.

One project called Assist Wrm is striving to improve road maintenance during the winter through satellite navigation and imagery. By putting automated processes in place and reducing the need for manual repairs, safety could be improved and drivers could focus on operating their vehicles.

For long haul truck drivers, this technology could enhance safety by managing their rest breaks. A tachometer would send a message when a break is due so the driver can be directed to the nearest place to rest and refuel.

Transporting goods by ship

For goods being transported via shipping container, satellite navigation tracking can help prevent loss or theft and temperature sensors can keep sensitive cargo in good condition. The implementation of Global Navigation Satellite Systems provides real-time information so that changes can be made instantly, saving time and money.

One such project developing ways to protect cargo through satellite technology is the RTICM project which aims to monitor the transport of valuable containers throughout the world which have previously been difficult to keep track of.

Delivery drones

Although most have us have seen drones buzzing around, they’re about to get a lot more prolific in our everyday lives.

Delivery drones delivering anything from take-aways to important documents could be common place around our cities. Satellite technology will make it easier to track drones to ensure the safe delivery of packages, as well as monitoring battery life. This is a much more sustainable way of delivering products, not to mention cost-effective and space saving!

Smart transport for a greener tomorrow

It’s no secret that climate change is a very real problem, and that the transport sector is a major contributor. In fact, transport accounts for 26% of global CO2 emissions. Therefore, finding more sustainable transport solutions is more important than ever.

Satellite technology has the potential to reduce the negative impact of transport on the environment through the remote exchange of data, and many businesses are considering environmental monitoring to be vital in their approaches. In fact, 15% of companies surveyed by Inmarsat claimed their sustainability had already been improved through these technologies.

Supporting the future of smart transport

For these technologies to be implemented throughout Europe and to improve the transport sector as a whole, the projects championing them need support.

This is one way in which the huge public investments in space technology generate a variety of highly useful societal impacts. At ESA-BA you can find more information about the essential funding, advice and support they offer to businesses aiming to use space enabled technologies for new commercial services.

We’re ready for a future of quicker, cheaper and greener transport!

Emily Sotudeh, copywriter at ESA-BA

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