Transportation, the industry that deals with the movement of commodities and passengers from one place to another, has gone through several studies, researches, trials, and refinements to reach where it is now. One of the major milestones in the history of transportation was the steamboat in the year 1787. Before this, people relied on animal-drawn carts for their commute. Thereafter, breakthroughs that led to the growth of the transportation industry were the invention of bicycles (early 19th century), motor cars (in the 1890s), trains (19th century), and aircraft (1903). Today, the transportation sector has evolved to a level where vehicles can navigate and move without any human assistance. Technological advancements have helped the transportation sector progress in its journey of innovation and evolution. One such new-age technology that has contributed to the sector is AI. Leveraging AI in transportation helps the sector increase passenger safety, reduce traffic congestion and accidents, lessen carbon emissions, and also minimize the overall financial expenses.
AI in Transportation: The Basics Clarified
AI, for quite some time now, has transcended its theoretical existence in research centers to become omnipresent in our day-to-day lives. And to a larger extent, the technology has succeeded in its endeavors. Most of us today, are unaware that we use AI daily. But what is AI and what exactly does it do?
In simple words, AI can be defined as a technology that powers machines with human intelligence. Machines, having AI capabilities, can mimic humans, automate manual tasks, and learn on the go just like humans. With automation coming into the picture, repetitive and time-consuming tasks go into the plate of AI. What's more, AI-powered systems exhibit human intelligence and learn with time, which indicates that these machines can eventually carry out critical-thinking jobs and take decisions by themselves. Realizing this unique potential of AI, the businesses in the transportation sector are making significant investments to improve revenue generation and stay ahead of their competitors. According to studies, the global market for AI in transportation is expected to reach 3.5 billion dollars by 2023. Let’s quickly look at some practical use cases of AI in transportation.
AI in Transportation: The Applications Mentioned
Use cases of AI in transportation justify why the market is seeing an upward surge and why companies should adopt the technology. Take a look at some potential use cases below:
One of the most ground-breaking applications of AI innovation is autonomous vehicles. Autonomous vehicles, the concept that was once merely a sci-fi fantasy, has now become a practical reality. Although people were skeptical of this technology during its developmental stages, driverless vehicles have already made their entry into the transportation sector.
Autonomous taxis have already started operating in Tokyo. However, for safety reasons, as of now, the driver sits in the car to take control of the taxi during an emergency. According to the maker of this autonomous taxi, the technology will result in reduced cost for taxi services, which can help increase the public transportation modes in remote areas.
Similarly, US logistics are embracing autonomous trucks to reap numerous benefits from it. According to a McKinsey report, 65 percent of goods are transported via trucks globally. And with autonomous trucks coming into the picture, the maintenance and administration expenses will come down by about 45 percent.
For now, a majority of companies are still running their pilot projects, striving to make self-driving vehicles flawless and safe for passengers. As this technology evolves, self-driving vehicles will gain mass confidence and become mainstream in the consumer realm.
Another transportation problem that people face daily is traffic congestion. AI is now set to solve this issue too.
Sensors and cameras embedded everywhere on roads collect the large voluminous amount of traffic details. This data is then sent to the cloud, where analysis and traffic pattern revelation will be done with big data analytics and an AI-powered system. Valuable insights like traffic predictions can be gleaned from data processing. Commuters can be provided with important details like traffic predictions, accidents, or road blockages. Besides, people can be notified about the shortest route to their destination, helping them travel without any hassles of traffic. This way, AI can be used to not only reduce unwanted traffic but also improve road safety and reduce wait times.
Another burning problem faced by air transport today is flight delays. The estimated costs due to flight delays are 39 billion dollars in the US, according to a study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. Along with financial loss, flights delay negatively impact passenger’s flying experience. Negative experience while flying can undermine a transport company’s value, which can result in increased customer churn rate. To overcome these issues, AI comes to the air transport industry's rescue here.
Leveraging data lake technology and computer vision, the industry can offer exceptional service to passengers in cutting down passenger’s wait times and enhancing their journey experience. As anything from bad weather to some technical glitch can cause flights to be delayed, it is important to update flight details to passengers in advance to get rid of unnecessary waiting times. With the help of computer vision systems, continuous monitoring of the airplanes can be carried out, eliminating the unplanned downtime. Besides, AI and machine learning components will process real-time airplane data, historical records, and also the weather information. On-the-spot computation will help in the revelation of hidden patterns, which can help the air transport industry glean useful insights on other possibilities that can cause flight delays and cancellations. This data can be forwarded to passengers, which can help them plan their schedule accordingly.
One of the most exciting and innovative AI applications in transportation is a drone taxi. Pilotless helicopters present a unique solution to combat the carbon emissions, eliminate traffic congestion, and reduce the need for expensive infrastructure construction plans. Besides, drone taxis will help people reach their destination much sooner, minimizing their commute time.
Further, rising populations have put city planners under high pressure to ensure smart urban planning and build infrastructure without compromising on declining resources. Drone taxis can indeed be the real recipe to solve all the concerns that these city planners are striving to deal with. The recent demonstration of an autonomous aerial vehicle in China, where 17 passengers experienced smart air mobility for the first time, is a great indicator of similar future applications.
AI has been one of the most astounding technological innovations of humankind, indeed. However, despite every amazing invention we have seen until now, it is important to note that we have only scratched just the surface of AI and a lot more is yet to be explored. The applications of AI in transportation mentioned above showcase just a glimpse of possibilities and opportunities that the technology can offer. Imagine how amazing and exciting the future driven by AI would be!
Naveen Joshi is Founder and CEO of Allerin, which develops engineering and technology solutions focused on optimal customer experiences. Naveen works in AI, Big Data, IoT and Blockchain. An influencer with a half a million followers, he is a highly seasoned professional with more than 20 years of comprehensive experience in customizing open source products for cost optimizations of large scale IT deployment.