Much has been said about how the vast majority of the human population will soon live in cities and how important it is to leverage information technology to enhance city services, increase urban safety and improve overall quality of life. What is less obvious is how we can make cities smarter when local governments and municipalities are often under heavy financial strains and lack resources to invest heavily in new infrastructure. But it turns out that the cheapest solution to both acquire massive amounts of actionable urban data as well as to expand wireless coverage for everyone in the city may be to rapidly connect as many vehicles moving around the city as possible. Here are five reasons.
Whereas this last argument for connected vehicles has been heavily supported by the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the European Commission, among other institutions, the first four use cases are still at an infant stage. To reach the full potential of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, the key question is how to get to a critical mass of connected vehicles that can mesh with each other and support a wider range of smart city applications.
A closer look at how the city of Porto, Portugal, has rolled out its urban-scale mesh network of connected vehicles reveals a viable strategy: focus first not on consumers and private vehicles but rather on commercial fleets, such as public buses, taxis and waste collection trucks. After my company Veniam connected such vehicles with multi-purpose, multi-network onboard units in September 2014, this real-world mesh has served more than 4 million Internet sessions. It proven to be a real asset as Porto strives to overcome the digital divide, increase safety, reduce pollution, and control traffic.
Since roughly 26% of the world’s 1.2 billion vehicles belong to enterprise fleets that generally travel many miles every day, starting with commercial vehicles appears to be the best strategy to scale the number of connected vehicles. Add to that the current trend towards mobility as a service – which will probably be provided in the near future by fleets of shared autonomous vehicles. Soon this strategy may actually be the only one we need to create vibrant connected cities worldwide.
João Barros will be among the speakers at Techonomy NYC on May 26 at New York University. (Request an invitation here.) He is CEO of Veniam, based in Silicon Valley, Porto, Portugal, and Singapore.
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