Smart Parking and Road Usage Fees: How IoT Could Impact Transportation

Predictions of billions of devices and trillions of dollars have long been associated with the Internet of Things (IoT) – also called Machine-to-Machine (M2M) technology. The world of Internet-connected sensors, cameras and more continues to grow as the transportation industry finds problems to solve and ways to make companies and customers more efficient.

Consider the plight of downtown drivers competing for parking. Could this search be optimized to save wear and tear on the engine, environment and driver? A quarter of all traffic congestion in San Francisco is caused by people hunting for a parking spot! Los Angeles, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Knoxville, Reno and Ft. Lauderdale are among 20 cities deploying smart parking with embedded sensors in parking lots to communicate with your smartphone, directing you to the nearest opening. It’s one example of how the Internet of Things (IoT) holds great promise for increasing efficiency and reducing transportation waste.   

More and more parking spots are now reserved for drivers of electric vehicles. Legislators in every state with a gas tax have noticed declining revenue due to rising fuel efficiency. The question for government is how to pay for roads, bridges and maintenance when funds are shrinking. At the head of the line is Oregon, where a pay-by-mile pilot program starts June 1. Oregon’s proposal would recover lost gas tax revenue with “Road Usage” fees. Driver location and distance tabulations would be collected through GPS devices that connect cars and tax collectors via the Internet. Many other states will be watching Oregon’s test drive. 

Nervous parents of young drivers now have several ways to plug in a connected device into the teen’s car, then go online and track locations, speeds and overall safety history. Insurance companies such as Travelers, State Farm and Progressive offer incentives for those using such devices to monitor and curb bad habits behind the wheel.

Helping drivers avoid traffic jams by finding alternate routes has been the aim of numerous traffic monitoring and GPS navigation applications. One of the latest innovations comes from Ford Motor Company, allowing owners of vehicles with Sync 3 to display their smartphone’s navigation system on the car’s screen.

A few years after launching solar-powered sensors on trash bins to determine whether there was enough garbage inside to justify sending trucks to empty the bins, more than 1,500 schools, cities, parks and other customers of Bigbelly Solar are now 80 percent more efficient. The bins are monitored remotely – enabling smarter decisions and additional fuel savings. The company is now seeking to add more sensors to the trash and recycling bins that would allow measurement of urban foot traffic, air quality and noise pollution.

Whether the sensors measure the amount of trash in a bin, the location of the nearest available parking spot or the safety of a vehicle being operated by a teenage driver; the Internet of Things provides opportunities to save fuel, time and perhaps save lives.