The next few years will see a previously change-resistant transportation industry transformed by emerging digital technologies. These “Smart Transportation” initiatives will take the industry by storm in 2019.
It’s not surprising that transportation, an industry where the CB radio is still used by many front-line employees, hasn’t been quick to embrace change. But as many professionals in the sector have come to realize, most signs point to a major transformation taking place over the next few years. Over the course of the past few years, $1.5B has been invested in core transportation and logistics startups in the U.S. alone. Those companies that fail to shift with the market will likely be left in the digital dust.
The trucking industry moves nearly $700B worth of cargo annually. The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) estimates that freight volumes will increase by over 40% in the next three decades. But with a (growing) driver shortage of over 50,000, and annualized industry turnover rates at 94%, fleet managers have work to do if they’re to meet this new demand. Add in growing customer and retailer expectations for data visibility throughout the supply chain, and it’s clear that most transportation companies must upgrade their capabilities in order to compete in a new era.
Discrete, cutting-edge technologies — from autonomous driving capabilities to IoT-enabled devices and real-time video-based safety solutions — are set to revolutionize the industry in 2019. Let’s review these transformational technologies, as well as a few preliminary steps transportation companies can take to embrace innovation and move ahead of the competition.
Video-based safety systems use in-cab cameras (both front-facing and driver-facing) to monitor and improve driver safety and performance. When implemented properly, such systems can reduce the number of accidents on the road, lower insurance rates, and help keep drivers safe. Companies like SmartDrive, Lytx, and Omnitracs offer comprehensive video-based safety solutions that enable trucking companies to monitor driver behavior and provide re-education and additional training to correct any problems before they result in accidents. When incidents do occur, these safety systems provide critical insight into driver fault, allowing drivers and trucking companies alike to make adjustments and reduce the likelihood of future accidents. AI-enabled camera solutions from Netradyne and OmniVision can detect when drivers are experiencing fatigue and trigger an alarm to prevent them from falling asleep at the wheel.
As recently as last year, only 6% of trucking companies had implemented such safety systems, but that number is growing, and 2019 figures to be the year when the technology transitions from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Trucking companies that implement these cutting-edge safety systems will not only position themselves to keep drivers safe — they’ll be able to mitigate the costs associated with insurance, maintenance, and repair.
The transportation sector is beginning to embrace autonomous vehicles. Simon-Kucher projects explosive growth for the market, which they expect to reach $36B by the year 2025. Beyond cost savings, these autonomous truckers would theoretically be able to approach each trip in the most efficient way possible and avoid the kind of driving mistakes that lead to inefficiencies and dangerous accidents.
Practically every major player involved in transportation is racing to develop a self-driving AI, from automakers like Daimler and Tesla to tech companies like Apple and Uber. Though the regulatory framework for the technology still needs to be developed, a transportation industry dominated by self-driving trucks isn’t as far away as you might guess. Earlier this year, for example, Google’s Waymo announced it would start relying exclusively on autonomous vehicles to transport freight to the tech giant’s Atlanta data centers.
“Smart” objects and devices that use advanced sensor technology to record and transmit data to both the wider internet and one another make up the Internet of Things (IoT). Companies in practically every industry are using this burgeoning technology to improve operational efficiency and avoid potentially dangerous or costly risks. In transportation, this includes installing sensors on trucks, train cars, cargo ships, and more. These sensors give transportation professionals and their customers visibility throughout the entire supply chain, enabling them to optimize operations for speed and efficiency.
One popular IoT case in transportation is real-time fleet management which uses electronic logging devices to let managers monitor the health and performance of each and every vehicle in their fleet. Smart sensors are also being utilized in the warehouse in order to create more accurate inventories and prevent the occurrence of accidents.
The IoT is one of the fastest growing Smart Transportation technologies on the market, and it’s going to become ubiquitous in the industry sooner rather than later: experts predict that IoT investment in the transportation and logistics space will reach $40 billion annually in the year 2020.
Smart Transportation initiatives aren’t being handled exclusively by the transportation industry itself. The DOT has been piloting a new measure called the Connected Vehicle Deployment Program, which sends out automated alerts to all drivers passing through particular cities regarding delivery patterns, severe weather, and the danger of colliding with other vehicles in the system. Meanwhile, city governments in Seattle and Boston have been experimenting with dynamic routing and marking systems that change with traffic patterns and seasonality in order to prevent congestion.
While systems like these will be implemented by state and local governments, the transportation industry will need the right tech to ensure they have the right systems in place to take advantage of these notifications.
Each of these Smart Transportation initiatives has tremendous potential, but they require tremendous volumes of data to be distilled and communicated to the people who need them. Without an integrated data system to serve as a foundation for these technologies, shipping companies won’t be able to effectively embrace them.
Businesses can prepare for new Smart Transportation technology by developing a platform for data and insight integration. Without an intelligence layer that connects sensors and management systems, shipping companies will not be able to generate the insights needed to optimize operations — nor will they be able to deliver these insights to the right people at the right time. A real-time view of the entire distribution network is the holy grail that shipping companies are after. One that monitors and optimizes delivery statuses, driver routes, and practically every major step in the delivery process. This, more than anything, is what the industry will need in order to take advantage of what we expect will be a big year for transportation technology.
Smart Transportation is coming sooner than you might expect, and those businesses that are prepared to embrace these data-intensive technologies will thrive while the slow adopters will struggle to keep pace. Industry stakeholders today have an opportunity to surge past the competition by taking proactive measures to prepare for a new era of digitally-enabled solutions.