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Future intelligent infrastructure: a smart future?

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Phil BlytheORCiD, Hannah Parker, Professor Eric Sampson, Simon Edwards



In the developed world, and increasingly in other parts of the world where economies are rapidly growing, travel has never been cheaper and the desire for travel a fundamental requirement of a vibrant society and growing economy. New instantaneous communications, broadcasts and the media have opened our eyes to a global world of opportunity for business, leisure travel and goods and services available around the world. We have embraced opportunities to travel and the choice of goods that global trade provides. However, we now face the challenges of global warming and limited supplies of oil, set against increasing demands for oil. At a national level, we face increasing congestion on roads and rail. The challenge it seems is to enable the economic growth whilst finding ways to mange congestion, the demands on energy and even ultimately the need to travel as much as we do at present, through changes in behaviour, lifestyle and ultimately urban design. One element of this is considering future science and technology in transport, whether it be for sensing, management and control, advanced modelling and simulation of transport systems, demand, economic, social and demographic data as well as how vehicles, public and private transport and the relationship between the individual and government/authorities may change over time. Just as science and technology gave us the freedom to move, they will play a key role in helping us to respond to these new challenges. Advances in sensor technology, computing power and telecommunications can allow us to build intelligence into the infrastructure and our decision making models. For example, could we deliver a future where we have the freedom to choose whether we travel? It could see transport stimulating economic growth, the seamless integration of different modes of transport and real-time intelligent support to help people along their way. Extending traveller information and ITS systems could support us when we travel so that we can make productive use of every moment of travelling time, whether for our own pleasure or to work. In doing this, new technology could support a sustainable world of global trade. We already have much of the technology to deliver such a system. But we need to learn how to implement it, and to do so in a way that is sustainable. The transport challenge of the next 30 years will be to use technology to deliver infrastructure, systems and knowledge that will stimulate economic growth, support social cohesion and be environmentally sustainable. We need to explore these opportunities and challenges ahead as we seek to deliver this future in the UK and to provide though leadership to advise the emerging economise on how to avoid some of the pitfalls with transport provision and growth that we have experienced in the West, thus, it is worth taking a speculative look into the long term future to explore whether future trends may be predicted by a broad ranging look at what new technologies may emerge, for example, to put more intelligence into the transport infrastructure. This intelligence, and the blurring of the relationship between the infrastructure and the vehicle through major ITS communications initiatives, may deliver opportunities for new paradigms in road use charging that are not just based upon cost recovery, or congestion management, but on pricing the environmental impacts and consequential carbon footprint of a car journey. In the UK such a future scoping exercise has been undertaken under the office of Science and Technology Foresight programme. The Intelligent Infrastructure Systems Study set out to explore how science and technology could, over the next 50 years, bring intelligence into infrastructure to meet these demanding and sometimes conflicting objectives.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Blythe PT, Bryan HR, Sampson E, Edwards S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Road Transport Information Control (RTIC) 2008

Year of Conference: 2008

Date deposited: 30/04/2010

Publisher: Institution of Engineering and Technology