New technology is already one of the best-known disruptive change forces, and that trend is likely to accelerate. Computers, smart phones and other technological advances have increased workforce productivity and efficiency enormously. A broad array of technology-related changes is already impacting how people travel, how transportation systems operate, and how DOTs collect, create, share and use information. For example, DOTs have begun to improve the management and operation of transportation networks using techniques enabled by technology such as adaptive traffic signal control, dynamic lane reversal, dynamic shoulder use, adaptive ramp metering, dynamic pricing, integrated electronic payment systems and advanced traveler information systems.
New technology creates challenges and opportunities for transportation agencies that have far-reaching implications. Advances in information technology (IT), data collection, transportation system management, transportation network companies (TNC), and Connected and Automated Vehicle (CAV) technology will only increase the rate of change for transportation agencies, and their need to adapt to that change. In order to respond, agencies will need to consider the impacts of technology on investment planning and prioritization, partnerships, workforce skills and abilities, and internal management structures and methods. Some of the upcoming challenges and opportunities offered by new technology include:
- Data: Methods for data gathering and analysis are changing. It is now possible to quickly and efficiently collect much higher quality data using mobile scanners, remote sensing, drones, crowd sourcing, and other methods. New data sources and advances in data management and analysis can provide a better understanding of asset condition, use, and risk factors in support of decision making. Improved technology enables significant increases in the amount of data available, but at the same time presents challenges in data management and forces transportation agencies to carefully consider what data to collect and how it will be used to improve decision making.
- IT: Information technology continues to improve, with ever more powerful and compact computers, improved network connectivity, more efficient system deployment models and improved decision support. Social media applications are growing in use and sophistication, offering opportunities for new options for public involvement and knowledge transfer within and across agencies. Given the ease with which people can stay connected through telecommunications and videoconferencing technology, many staff will expect to be able to work from anywhere as well.
- Technology Infrastructure: Organizations are increasingly using the cloud for data storage. Information privacy and cybersecurity present growing challenges for agency IT staff. DOTs face an expectation by the public and staff that they will use the latest and most up-to-date technology, despite financial constraints and limited staff resources. Some agencies address this challenge through use of software-as-a-service and bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policies.
- Skills: Advances occurring in artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, and platform architectures offer opportunities for improved efficiency and effectiveness, but require specialized expertise.
- Ride Sharing: Technology-enabled ride sourcing and ride sharing services offer travelers new options, and the long-term impacts on travel, transit, and equity are not yet well understood.
- Energy: Advances in energy technology are changing the habits of drivers and creating new infrastructure needs, particularly for electric vehicles, that agencies need to consider. At the same time, these new energy technologies undermine the effectiveness of traditional transportation user fees such as the gas tax and will require DOTs to identify new methods of funding transportation.
- CAV: Agencies are just beginning to grapple with the range of technical and legal challenges associated with emerging CAV technologies and supporting infrastructure needs. Implications for highway design and capacity needs, lane markings, traveler information and cybersecurity are currently being studied. The improvements to safety and energy efficiency that this technology offers are driving the change.