In recent years, the transportation sector has undergone a profound transformation, driven by the convergence of emerging technologies and innovative trends. This has resulted in a variety of changes, reshaping the way we move people and goods across the U.S. Traditional modes of transport are being reinvented to align with the demands of our modern world, with the help of Electric vehicles (EVs), high-speed rail, Smart Cities, AI, IoT, and more. EVs are becoming more mainstream along with alternative fuel sources and with new and exciting prospects in autonomous mobility, it’s clear that the industry is evolving at an unprecedented pace. Today, we’ll take you through some current trends in transit technology that are becoming even more relevant in the year 2024, and although some of them have been around for a while, it’s widely expected that their implementation across the sector will be accelerated through various developments and advances in technology.
Smart Mobility Solutions and Public Transport
By 2024, public transportation will be much more technology-led as a result of emerging smart mobility solutions and various developments in the sector. The gradual implementation of mobile ticketing systems and other smartphone-operated technologies used to facilitate daily travel, in combination with big data used to optimize vehicle dispatch, routes, and schedules, will ultimately lead to a highly automated system that provides better efficiency and precision. Smart traffic regulation will ensure the safe and efficient flow of vehicles, further positioning public transportation as a viable alternative to cars. Traditional public transit systems are becoming increasingly smarter, with each passing year, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly.
Smart city initiatives are integrating real-time data and AI algorithms to optimize public transit routes, reduce congestion, and improve the overall quality of services. Electric buses are starting to dominate the public transit sector, replacing conventional diesel vehicles, and reducing emissions and noise pollution. Furthermore, the advent of autonomous buses and trains holds a promise for safer and more reliable public transportation systems in the future. Passenger demand for seamless, interconnected journeys is being met with real-time updates, ticketless travel, and enhanced accessibility to multimodal options. It’s widely believed that in the next year, public transport will become an even more attractive choice for commuters along with being a key component in the creation and promotion of sustainable urban mobility.
Accelerated Decarbonization and Developments in Transit Vehicles
The shift toward electrification continues to gain momentum in various parts of the world as electric buses, trams, and high-speed trains are becoming more common in an attempt to move toward sustainable transport that reduces emissions and improves air quality. Currently, the adoption of the newly emerging “bullet trains” presents several challenges in the U.S. where only 5% of the rail network is electrified, compared to the recorded 60% in Europe and Asia. As the U.S. gradually progresses towards modernizing its rail infrastructure, it may have to rely on interim solutions like hydrogen-powered vehicles and biofuels to reduce emissions. Electric vehicles have shown great potential in reducing greenhouse gas emissions when compared to traditional internal combustion engines, while high-speed rail provides a more sustainable alternative to air travel in certain instances.
The Electric Vehicles (EVs) revolution is expected to take the automotive industry by storm in 2024. With a growing emphasis on sustainability and a decrease in carbon emissions, EVs have gradually become the cornerstone of modern transportation. These energy-efficient vehicles are becoming more prominent in cities around the U.S. which is largely due to their increasing availability, newly emerging model ranges and hybrids, price plans, attractive government incentives, and environmental and health benefits. With ongoing improvements in battery technology, EVs are now offering longer ranges and quicker charging times, making them a favorable and practical choice for daily commuting. Government incentives and charging infrastructure developments have accelerated the adoption of EVs across the nation and it’s expected that this will increase with each passing year.
5G Technology – Wireless Connectivity at Top Speed
A reliable Wi-Fi connection onboard public transit vehicles is somewhat a standard nowadays and most passengers expect to have access to it. This demand is driven by the increasing adoption of transit apps and contactless payment solutions that require a robust mobile Internet connection capable of handling multiple users and supporting vital vehicle safety and functionality systems. With 5G, public transportation authorities can implement advanced ticketing systems that streamline the purchasing and validation of tickets so that traveling becomes more convenient. This means riders can use their phones to buy tickets and gain access to transit vehicles. 5G can be further leveraged to improve the efficiency of transit vehicles through the use of smart technologies. By embedding sensors into vehicles and advanced analytics systems, agencies can monitor and optimize the performance of their fleets. Doing so can reduce energy consumption, lowering costs, and minimizing environmental impact.
5G has an important role to play in powering sensors and connected IoT devices used to monitor, calibrate, and adapt future transport systems. The technology provides a layer of stability and insight that was not previously possible, allowing for smarter and more productive operations in transit. Its high bandwidth capability enables a greater density of sensors, meaning more data is available – and with machine learning, greater and quicker insights and analysis. Monitoring the occupancy levels on public transit vehicles can promote dynamic scheduling, improving passenger experiences and optimizing costs, while smart rerouting can minimize delays and optimize journeys. Predictive maintenance can keep vehicles in shape and on track, reducing the risk of breakdowns and potential accidents.
5G connectivity also makes it possible for cameras inside and outside transit vehicles to transmit live and recorded HD video footage and feed it back to administrators. This can help reduce incidents on the road along with enhancing the validity of accident reports. IoT sensors on board can effectively count the number of passengers boarding and getting off, meaning first responders and other emergency personnel can act based on the accuracy of this information. The widespread adoption of 5G networks in public transportation offers numerous opportunities to enhance both customer experience and increase system efficiency. By investing in 5G technologies, public transport providers can expand and improve their service offerings, making them smarter, more effective, and more sustainable.
Smart Traffic Management Systems – At the Intersection of Technology and Transit
Smart traffic management systems rely largely on the connectivity provided by 4G, and 5G, in combination with other services, as means of communicating with traffic hardware and road infrastructure which has been embedded with IoT sensors, such as traffic lights, toll gates, and CCTV cameras. By leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, and predictive analytics, cities and municipalities can use real-time data collected about traffic congestion, accidents, and road conditions to improve traffic flow and road safety. Future AI systems promise to facilitate direct communication within ecosystems of smart vehicles, creating a seamless traffic management network that is redundant of human error and is superior in efficiency.
For public transit agencies who are already using real-time data to improve their services, this will add another layer of accuracy to the information they provide, helping riders with their journeys as well as being more effective in optimizing routes and schedules. Improved flow of traffic and enhanced road conditions also will result in less idle time for transit vehicles, leading to significant savings in fuel, time, and a reduction in maintenance costs. It is widely believed that once transit vehicles are in sync with smart traffic management systems, the outcome will create better and more seamless services that make public transportation more attractive to populations. Current reports forecast that global spending on smart traffic management solutions will increase in the coming years reaching a total of $18.6 billion by 2028, which underlines a 75 percent increase from the 2023 estimates amounting to $10.6 billion. This growth is largely attributed to an increase in government investments in smart city initiatives, with transportation infrastructure being pivotal to transforming urban environments. According to the presented research, cities will need to implement traffic analysis systems and infrastructure during the earliest stages of development if they are to avoid additional costs later on.
The Role of Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) in Transit
The convergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) will open up a whole new realm of possibilities in the future where connected devices are not only gathering data but also analyzing it in real time and making decisions based on it. This will help city planners and authorities establish better operational standards and safety protocols, elevating the performance of Smart Cities and helping with their management. One of the core characteristics of AIoT centers around its ability to harness the power of artificial intelligence as a way of analyzing vast amounts of raw data generated by the Internet of Things. The use of IoT devices is rapidly increasing, having extended from smart wearables to smart homes and other intelligent systems that are operating within a smart city ecosystem. These devices are providing valuable insights and with machine learning, predictions based on impeccable accuracy can be made, along with detecting anomalies and providing actionable recommendations.
With the powerful fusion of data analytics, real-time monitoring, and predictive algorithms, public transit systems can be significantly improved with the promising prospect of reducing the environmental impact of transportation. Transit authorities can progress toward making better and more well-informed choices about how to enhance operational effectiveness, along with uncovering new possibilities for growth and efficiency. For example, data collected from IoT sensors and AI algorithms can help with making predictions, optimizing routes, allocating resources, managing traffic, and analyzing real-time data and events. Furthermore, machine learning algorithms can enable vehicles to swiftly adapt to changing road conditions by detecting and alerting drivers about hazardous situations, potential collisions, or accidents – a nationwide trend predicted to drastically reduce road fatalities in the future. The consistent monitoring of traffic and its optimization will enable city authorities to implement dynamic traffic management strategies that reduce congestion in densely populated urban regions, improve air quality, and achieve cost savings on fuel and emissions.
As we progress towards the use of autonomous vehicles, AI-powered systems will also become crucial in establishing safety standards and creating reliable self-driving cars. In this sense, AIoT will apply and use data from sensors such as cameras and lidar (light detection and ranging) to enhance safety and reduce the number of accidents. This will prove to be of great significance for autonomous vehicles that rely on this data to detect and respond to changes in environments, such as the presence of other vehicles and pedestrians. By improving safety and reliability, cities can establish truly intelligent and efficient transportation systems.
Vehicle-to-Infrastructure (V2I) – a step up in reviving Communications
Advancements in technology have ushered in a new era of solutions that hold the potential to drastically improve safety on roads along with the efficiency and effectiveness of traffic control. Vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) is defined as a communication model that applies wireless connectivity for the purpose of facilitating a two-way exchange of information between a vehicle and smart traffic systems that contain sensors, including traffic signals, stop signs and road infrastructure. This communication makes it possible to share real-time information regarding traffic conditions, weather, and potential road hazards. Vehicles on the road can predict a variety of outcomes and scenarios, adjusting their speed and behavior which will help adhere to better safety standards while also reducing congestion. The purpose of V2I is to essentially improve safety on roads, with current research by the NHTSA estimating that the widespread use of V2I, along with vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication technology, could in some instances entirely prevent or reduce the occurrence and severity of non-impaired traffic accidents.
This is enabled by the use of 5G technology and it’s widely considered that in the future drivers will leverage these technologies to their advantage, improving on-time performance by communicating with traffic lights to improve the flow of traffic. Drivers will be notified instantly about any collisions, possible traffic jams, bad road conditions, or approaching cyclists or pedestrians. Data gathered from V2I communication can be further used for the optimization of routes, improving the performance of fleets, minimizing fuel usage, and developing sustainable practices. The deployment of V2I technology has already shown promising results and it’s expected that this trend will continue to spread nationwide. One such example is the Connected Vehicle Safety Pilot Model which was deployed in Michigan back in 2012. This included the installation of V2I technology on over 2,800 vehicles and at various intersections throughout the city. The project was deemed a success, resulting in a significant reduction in the number of accidents as well as a notable improvement in traffic flow. Developments in 5G technology are underway and remain vital in ensuring a robust network of connectivity and exchange of data can be maintained.
Micromobility – the missing link in bridging the gap in Multimodal Transportation
Micromobility solutions in the form of e-scooters, bikes, and segways hold the promise of addressing several issues in urban mobility starting with environmental concerns, filling in gaps in public transport systems, and providing a practical and viable alternative to the problem of first-and-last-mile journeys. They can help bring down car usage in cities as well as alleviate congestion, contributing to more efficient use of land and infrastructure such as parking and other shared public spaces. Electric micromobility vehicles are compact, lightweight, produce little to no noise, and are eco-friendly, making them an ideal option for short-distance travel which is why they are so appealing to populations.
Modern apps are now connecting all of these modes of transportation into a single ecosystem, helping passengers plan their entire journeys including picking the best route and mode for their trip, flexible payment options, real-time information, and more. Furthermore, the rise of app-based micromobility has provided valuable real-time data that can help cities manage fleet numbers, identify service gaps, and address potential parking concerns. Analyzing this data offers authorities insights into micromobility usage, including access points in different neighborhoods along with the impact on first/last mile connectivity to public transit. Multimodality can serve as an innovative platform where city planners and authorities can work with what they already have to create an interlinked system of solutions that adapt to the individual needs of each state and region, whether it’s urban or rural.
Micromobility is providing a variety of benefits for transit agencies and city planners looking to expand their offerings to riders by offering viable solutions to multimodal transportation, particularly in the context of the first-mile last-mile problem that many rural regions face. Cities that don’t have a fully-fledged transit system or simply can’t provide full coverage can use these newly available solutions and technologies to their advantage, with some results already being at hand. According to the North American Bikeshare and Scootershare Association, micromobility ridership levels grew to a whopping 157 million trips taken across North America in 2022 alone. It was reported that 64% of those riders used micromobility as a means of connecting to public transit.
Minimobility is another emerging trend that’s worth mentioning that incorporates the use of three- or four-wheeled vehicles, with the capacity to transport one or two people at a time. Compared to EVs, these highly compact, electric vehicles provide a more affordable alternative to conventional electric cars that’s great for short-distance travel in cities and is environmentally friendly. It’s generally accepted that they will not contribute to more traffic, and they are very easy to park although their size remains bigger than some micromobility options such as scooters. The use of minimobility is also thought to be more comfortable for users as they are seated during travel and there is the added benefit of being protected in weather conditions.
Transit technology will continue to evolve in the coming years and as more solutions become available we can expect to see many new trends and developments in how people travel and approach mobility in the context of their urban environments and beyond.