Dear Colleagues,

I watched (bemused) yesterday as a car reverse parked itself and considered the possibilities with the rapidly growing field of intelligent transport engineering. My brother-in-law grunted his dubious assent about the growth of the transport field as he had been involved in development of software for smart cards for transportation but the massively fragmented nature of the industry caused him considerably more pain than profit (he has since moved into the more lucrative and simpler field of mining software).

Everyone has heard of the Google ‘self driving’ car and the market is predicted to grow to almost $25bn in 2017 for intelligent transportation technologies. At present my personal‘state of the art’ transport engineering is restricted to cruise control (esp. to keep my driving under speed limits). But this situation is going to change rapidly.

A million deaths per year
To my mind one of the true tragedies of today’s world is the horrendous death toll caused by car accidents. Over a million people are killed per year in traffic accidents (especially in poorer countries which can’t afford this huge cost). Intelligent transport engineering promises to dramatically reduce this death toll.

Three Key Factors
There are three factors driving intelligent transportation. The most important would obviously be safety - reducing even a fraction of a million deaths pa would be a godsend.

The second is reducing congestion of traffic and helping you to identify the best possible path from point A to point B in terms of speed and convenience; whilst also (the difficult one) optimising the overall traffic flow (for the other drivers on the road).

The third factor would be the standard one of improving energy efficiency and reducing emissions.

Skills required are wide ranging
The skills and know-how required in this field encompass such traditional areas as electrical, mechanical and civil engineering. As well as communications, sensors, systems, IT and industrial automation and the softer fields such as ergonomics, economics and psychology. This has resulted in a very fragmented approach with individuals working on small aspects of the overall transport problem. There are few examples of project managers working on the entire problem. As a result of these scattered contributions from numerous experts; there is a need for collaborative as well as communication skills to make the teams effective.

A Tremendous Career Opportunity
The next few years will thus see extraordinary growth in intelligent transport systems and also create a deluge of career opportunities whether you are an engineer, technologist or technician working in the area. Or most importantly – an entrepreneur seeking to create a new solution for intelligent transport systems.

Thanks to John Platt of the IEEE for a great article.

Remember with your career as Colin Powell says: Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

Yours in engineering learning,