How information and communication technologies can transform personal transportation

Blog | December 10, 2014 - 3:51 pm
By Shruti Vaidyanathan, Senior Advisor for Research

Chances are you’ve seen examples of intelligent efficiency in action in the transportation sector, whether you realize it or not. If you rely on a smart phone app to tell you when your train or bus is arriving for your daily commute, that’s an example of intelligent efficiency at work. If you happen to own a vehicle with a dashboard that provides you instant fuel economy readouts, manufacturers are using intelligent systems to help you maximize the efficiency of your vehicle.

Intelligent efficiency is the use of information and communications technologies (ICT) to improve the overall productivity and efficiency of a given sector. In transportation, intelligent efficiency can affect the way we travel by providing us with real-time feedback and information on fuel economy, making it easier for us to use alternatives to driving such as public transit and bicycles, and by moving traffic away from peak travel times and consolidating travelers into fewer vehicles.

A new report from ACEEE, Energy Savings from Information and Communications Technologies in Personal Travelestimates that aggressively incorporating a handful of ICT strategies could reduce energy consumption in transportation by almost 13% by 2030. The strategies discussed in the report include:

  1. Car and bike sharing
  2. Real-time transit information
  3. In-vehicle feedback
  4. Vehicle-to-vehicle communications and driver assist applications
  5. ICT-based transportation demand management programs (TDM)

The report aims to provide readers with a sense of the relative magnitude of energy savings possible from these strategies, and is by no means a definitive overall estimate. ICT could be incorporated in many additional ways in the transportation sector. The strategies described here are simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to implementation. Studies from Europe have shown that reductions could be as high as 26% if we consider the whole universe of strategies and options.

Nevertheless, the potential for energy savings from ICT doesn’t guarantee the realization of those savings. A number of barriers exist that prevent the proliferation of ICT-based approaches in the transportation sector. One of the biggest is the in-built cultural notion that driving is the most convenient and reliable way to travel. Another is that transportation data needs to be made more widely and freely available for the development of user-friendly feedback tools.

There remains plenty of opportunity for the incorporation of intelligent efficiency in the transportation sector as a means to reduce fuel consumption. Despite the uncertainties regarding breadth of adoption, it is very clear that ICT has the potential to rapidly change the way people choose to travel. Who knows? Maybe by 2030, shared autonomous vehicles will be the norm!