If you’ve ever been part of the “crowd,” then what follows is probably not new to you. But if you think the crowd was the cool kids in high school, you need to spend some time talking with Scott Belcher. Belcher, president & CEO of Intelligent Transportation Society of America, spends his days focused on things such as the crowd, the cloud, and vehicle connectivity.
ITS America is a non-profit organization with over 400 public and private members promoting the development of intelligent transportation solutions (ITS). “We found that in 2010, the ITS market in North America was $48 billion…It is an industry that’s growing at 17%, it’s an industry that is innovative, and it is an industry that is hiring,” Belcher said.
Still not sure what the ITS market includes? Well, start with the crowd, and add the cloud and even vehicle connectivity. And then for kicks, add vehicle safety technologies that utilize radar, software, etc., to make safety determinations on things such as vehicle stability, safe traveling distances, even driver drowsiness.
“The future is transportation choices, and it’s not just in light-duty vehicles,” Belcher said, noting supply chain management, electronic monitoring, and real-time routing as just a few examples. “They’ve all come about because of [vehicle] connectivity. The future is big data. The future is managing big analytic data,” Belcher added. “The future is connected vehicles.”
Belcher noted that crowdsourcing is influencing the way people drive. Crowdsourcing is the outsourcing of tasks to a group, usually unknown people. For instance, Belcher talked about traffic provider Waze.
“What Waze does is it gives you the routing. It looks at traffic and gives you alternate routing,” Belcher explained. “First it does crowdsourcing so you can share that information with friends and others on the road. Then Waze adds a gaming system where you can get awards for going certain [directions].”
But how do technologies and strategies such as this help trucking? Belcher noted how Congress did not fix the underlying problem of how to pay for infrastructure maintenance and improvements in the latest highway bill.
“We think that in a resource-strained environment technology can help,” Belcher said, adding that the only realistic solution he sees at the moment is a vehicle miles tax (VMT). Using traditional technologies, though, a VMT would be difficult to collect and enforce. But by using modern cloud-based services, Belcher said collection of a VMT tax becomes a more viable option.
Safe truck parking is another area where Belcher said technology can provide a big assist. “Smart parking” is in essence a reservation system. Just as a traveler would book a hotel room in advance, a trucker or fleet manager could identify potential stopping points by using the cloud to verify “vacancies” and reserve that spot for a night’s rest. “It pays for itself, and it generates revenue,” he said. “I think fleet providers would use technology to identify spots for their drivers to get off the road.”
And these are just a few examples, Belcher said. Where the future takes us is still unknown, but it’s people like Belcher who will drive us there.
“I don’t have all the answers,” Belcher concluded. “I don’t know if the answers I provided are the right ones, but I wanted to challenge you to think about things differently. I think about things differently every day.”
Shouldn’t we all?