Have you noticed that more and more things are becoming computerized? Even the roads we drive on will be highly influenced by computer technology in the days to come…
For now, people drive their own cars and trucks on roads, highways, and elsewhere. We live in a mobile society, and with so many people in traffic, obviously traffic control systems are paramount to a structured, well-functioning society.
INTELLIGENT TRAFFIC SYSTEMS
There’s such a thing as “intelligent traffic systems (ITS).” These systems utilize technology to help prevent traffic congestion. Case in point– you’re using your smartphone to take a trip from the northeast to the southwest. Along the way, you have your phone telling you what roads to take, where to turn, etc. Here’s where it gets interesting: say there’s a car crash on Route 77 near Charlotte. Your phone amazingly knows this information, and it alerts you to it. “You can save 15 minutes by taking this alternative route,” it will tell you. That’s a perfect example of how technology literally impacts a regular person’s everyday life– while they’re taking a road trip.
Fiber Optics and Driving ITS is used to help control the flow of traffic. For instance, it can help figure out when to open and close certain gates on a highway allowing access to additional traffic lanes. Or say it’s foggy in a certain area at a certain time. ITS sensors detect this fog and send messages to electronic signs to be seen by commuters, alerting them to hazardous driving conditions ahead… and that same “fog” message can appear on a person’s smartphone map, too.
Before you go on a road trip, you can log in to certain websites that’ll tell you information about how busy traffic is in hot spots around town. For instance, one map might use red lines along a highway to indicate heavy traffic, whereas yellow is medium and green is light traffic/no delays. Another great use of technology is to tell people how long the wait is at bridge crossings. Say, for example, you want to enter Canada from Michigan– there’s real-time data that allows you to see, visually, what the border looks like, as well as “wait times” listed online. If there are multiple bridges at your preferred border crossing, you can compare the wait times and choose a route that seems fastest. Again, this is technology helping make life a little easier for those who travel.
TECHNOLOGY TO HELP US DRIVE SAFER
What can we expect in the future with regards to sensors and computers helping people drive better, safer and smarter? Well, vehicles are already being equipped with technology to avoid bumper-to-bumper collisions, improve vision in poor weather, and even alert drowsy drivers. The newer your vehicle, the more likely you are to find new features that didn’t exist before. It’s like your car is a computer, itself, monitoring things like tire air pressure and oil levels, alerting you when they need attention. “Smart cars” are being made for “smart highways.” That’s where we’re at right now.
FIBER OPTICS IS A MAJOR REASON WHY IT’S ALL POSSIBLE
What’s making all this possible? For one, it’s fiber optic links. ITS networks handle a lot of data and they need to do so quickly and efficiently. You wouldn’t want this info delivered over old-fashioned copper wires… that’s horse-and-buggy technology at this point. Today, fiber optics carry much of society’s information over all sorts of distances, both near and far. They’re the backbone of modern communication, as well as ITS networks.
While driving along highways, you’re likely to see signals, sensors, cameras and other equipment that collect and transmit data. Fiber optic links play a pivotal role in ITS infrastructure, handling an ever-increasing amount of data. Thanks to fiber optics, information can be collected in one place and then transmitted and stored in another place. That’s why a camera can catch you speeding on the highway, and you get a letter in the mail telling you this– somewhere there’s a photo of your license plate, showing you go through a certain detection area clocked at 88 miles per hour in a 65 mile per hour zone. Again, this is an example of a “smart highway,” although one speeders don’t like!
Actually, terrorism has made the whole ITS thing grow rapidly in recent years, as the government is very concerned about homeland security. They want to be able to do surveillance of roadways, keeping tabs on what vehicles go where and when. Funding to make roads “smarter” is often linked to homeland security concerns. In other words, the government is spending money on projects to watch people, whether they like it or not.
We live in an increasingly online, digital world. Fiber optics makes this possible. Life, as we know it, will change a lot in the next hundred years. It’ll be interesting to see what changes happen to road travel in the decades to come thanks to technological advances.