The future of technology in transportation: A view from the front lines

February 1, 2016 Stuart Lerner

From electronic tolling to driverless cars, technology is bringing transportation into the future


The wheel, the chariot, the train, the car – what do they all have in common? At a particular point in time, each represented the latest in transportation technology. As transportation designers, the key is to try to keep up with those technologies so we can continue to help our transportation systems evolve.

The systems we use now will likely be seen as archaic in the future. Our grandchildren will look at our current transportation systems the way we look at a horse and buggy. The infusion of technologies into our transportation networks – like Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS), Electronic Toll Collection (ETC), and Structure Asset Management (SAM) – is increasing our capabilities and our efficiencies to expand and maintain our transportation systems.

Take electronic tolling, for example. Before electronic tolling was developed, many agencies were working on costly plans for toll barrier expansion. Now with ETC, the typical agency is developing strategies for eliminating toll barriers altogether.

A similar scenario will be played out with other transportation modes, where budget dollars will be focused less on expansion of the transportation network and more on efficiencies of the network to move people around, with lighter vehicles that move faster and occupy less space within the existing transportation infrastructure network.


Technologies like electronic tolling have revolutionized travel


Another example is Structure Asset Management (SAM). Stantec was actually among one of the first firms in Maryland to implement the use of SAM and other real-time bridge inspection software and automated reporting systems, which allow us to generate and deliver inspection reports to our clients while in the field – saving a significant amount of time and minimizing repeat visits to the sites. These technologies increase accuracy and eliminate the opportunity for errors because they ensure all required data is entered while we are on site.

These types of changes in technology will not only affect our industry, but the average commuter as well. Economic and social impacts such as travel routes, time, and travel costs will be directly affected by such technologies as driverless vehicles. By being at the leading edge of technology, transportation designers will have an advantage in integrating new software and programs into the way we carry out our work.

Five years, ten years, twenty years from now – there will be a dramatic shift in the results we achieve and the way we achieve them. I, for one, am proud and excited to be on the front lines of the evolution.

About the Author

Stuart Lerner

Stu Lerner leads our transportation business and is particularly on the cutting edge of what’s happening in the transit and rail sector.

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