Despite the cost of fuel falling over the past few months, today’s prices are still significantly more expensive than they were 18 months ago. But the price of a liter of unleaded is not the only cost associated with driving on our congested road network. Carbon emissions resulting from travel are the most highly visible environmental concern pressing the road infrastructure today. Vehicles sitting in queues of congested stop/start traffic are pumping out far greater levels of harmful emissions than the figures based on vehicles traveling at a steady, optimal speed often used in vehicle manufacturers’ advertising campaigns
The lesson of energy-saving lightbulbs
As is often the case, the financial and environmental costs are linked. Just as an energy-saving light bulb aids the environment and lowers electricity bills, so selecting routes that avoid congestion helps reduce carbon emissions and fuel costs.
Users of navigation devices and journey-planning websites are well aware that the routes offered are not the routes they would choose if they were familiar with the area. They are often amazed that the route presented does not take the actual speed one can travel on any given piece of the road network into account. A road that is quiet and free-flowing on Saturday evening can be bumper-to-bumper during busy periods leading to higher emissions and increased fuel costs. While sitting in the stop/start traffic, drivers have plenty of time to question the true cost of putting their faith in the current generation of navigation solutions.
Regardless of the impressive range of travel-based information on websites, sat-navs and smart phones, the journey times given and the routes provided are all calculated using fixed speeds. These fixed-speed systems assume that it is always possible to travel at the same speed on any given class of road. Anyone who uses a busy main road network on a Friday evening will disagree with this logic.
If organizations and individuals are to reduce travel-based carbon emissions effectively they need a more reliable tool than those currently available for accurately predicting journey length and avoiding congestion. The potential benefits of unprecedented accuracy in journey planning are significant.
With the next generation of traffic speed forecasts, navigation solutions will have the information they need to generate routes that reflect the actual conditions of our roads at any given time. Solutions incorporating time-dependant routing will deliver the best route for the time of travel – travel at a different time and the route may alter to reflect the changes in expected traffic speeds throughout the day and week. Drivers will have the choice between the shortest, fastest or most fuel-efficient route – the most efficient being the route of least congestion that avoids pollution causing stop/start traffic.
Based upon in-depth analysis of actual journey times experienced throughout the day, this traffic intelligence not only enables drivers to plan journeys with far more confidence, based on location, time of day, type of vehicle and even individual driving style, but also supports ‘real-time’ rerouting in response to live traffic incidents.
With precise maps and sophisticated routing engines already available, accurate speed forecasts have, until recently, been absent. However, accurate speed forecasts are enabling a change in navigation technology that will transform the way journeys are planned, routes are managed, and the amount of time that is spent on the road.
Innovative navigation solution providers are working to combine live data feeds with accurate forecasting. This allows routing engines to analyze in ‘real-time’ and provide responses based upon the potential impact of congestion on primary, secondary and tertiary routes. Enabling sat-nav and routing systems to propose the most efficient alternative route reflecting not only type of vehicle and time of day but also, if required, the driver’s style of driving and road preferences.
As with the energy-saving light bulb improved routing will result in benefits that surpass the green agenda. The chance to make journey planning more sophisticated, reliable and accurate will also provide a bottom line impact as a result of reduced fuel consumption. Corporate customers will also benefit from increased accuracy and efficient routes as less surplus stock will be required in the supply chain, mobile staff will have predictable journey lengths on less congested roads, thereby reducing emissions and also improving productivity and morale.
Superior routing and traffic-enabled software applications will provide satellite navigation systems, mapping services and vehicle routing software with congestion-avoidance services that enable drivers to reduce the environmental impact and the financial cost of travel.
John Holland is the CEO of Journey Dynamics and can be contacted by emailing email@example.com. Alternatively, log on to www.journeydynamics.com
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