The Impact of Space Data on Smart Transport and Logistics

By:  European Space Agency: Business Applications

The Future of Smart Transport

Transportation relies on the data sent between vehicles and transport infrastructures such as railways, bus stations and airports. This data allows vehicles and infrastructures to adapt to changing situations and conditions. These situations include:

  • Changes in the weather
  • Congestion
  • Battery life of vehicles

With the use of satellites, transportation systems will become smarter. Communications between infrastructures and vehicles will be more reliable and accurate. Even when other networks break down or are unavailable, satellite technology will still work.

Here’s what the future of smart transport will look like.

The Future of Vehicles

Currently, we use space data for satellite navigation but there are numerous opportunities for the use of satellites in our transportation systems.

Cars and Drivers

In the future, cars will be able to collect data from satellites and infrastructures about their journey. For example, if a satellite senses that a snow storm is about to begin, data will be sent from space to a local transport hub. The transport hub will then send a signal to all of the drivers in the affected area.

The vehicle will be able to tell the driver if their car is suitable for driving in the snow. If it is not suitable, the satellite navigation system will redirect the driver to a nearby service station or on an alternative route.

Trucks and Lorries

For larger vehicles travelling long distances, space data will be able to tell drivers when they need to take a break. These breaks can be coordinated with when the vehicle needs refuelling, so the journey is not interrupted.

Congestion and Road Accidents

Satellites will be able to control traffic on the roads. When there is heavy congestion, drivers will be alerted, and their cars can divert them on a new route.

If an accident occurs, the vehicles involved can send a signal to the nearest transport hub which will then detect the vehicle’s location and severity of the accident. If needed, emergency services or road side assistance will be called.

The Use of Drones

Drones will become a key part of our transport systems. They will be used to deliver packages to ensure more efficient and cheaper deliveries.

The drone will be tracked by satellites which will monitor its location and speed. Space data will also be able to detect any objects that will obstruct the path of the drone.

If there are roadside accidents, ambulance drones will be first on the scene to deliver assistance. This will clear the roads more efficiently and relieve congestion.

The Future of Public Transport

In the future, public transport as we know it will change. Daily commutes will be radically different and there will be fewer disruptions and delays.

Bus Schedules

When waiting for a bus, passengers will be able to send a signal from their phone to the nearest bus. The driver will divert and pick the passenger up from their specified location.

Train Maintenance

The maintenance of trains will be improved through satellite technology. If a carriage or part of a train needs servicing, the relevant companies can be contacted immediately. The train will be fixed before it turns into a bigger problem and journeys will not be disrupted.

Satellite technology can also be used in the maintenance of aircrafts, which will make air travel safer.

Ships and Pollution Control

Satellite signals can be sent between ships and ports to control pollution. If there is a lot of sea and air pollution, ports can tell ships to wait until the port is less busy.

Satellites can also track the location of ships and their cargo. When a ship needs to dock, they can signal to the port, which can prepare accordingly.

Smart Transport in Action

Businesses are already making use of space data for transportation services. An Inmarsat report surveying 100 transportation companies, found that 44% of them used space data to monitor their environmental impact.

The European Space Agency funds businesses who use space data in to improve transportation services. Here is an example of space data in action.

Assist WRM

The Assist WRM project is using satellite technology to maintain roads during the winter. Automatic signals can be sent to maintenance equipment when a satellite detects heavy snow. This means the roads can be cleared quickly and there is less need for manual labour.

For more information about the different businesses ESA support, visit the funding page.