A common thinking pattern is “more is better” – the best way to solve a problem is to add something more to it.
So the answer to traffic congestion? Traditionally, it’s been “Build another highway…”
However, the evolution of smarter technology is changing all that.
Now more than ever before we have the design principles and the technology tools that allow us to optimise existing systems to maximise their performance.
A recent Medium article “Smart tech systems cut congestion for a fraction of what new roads cost” quantifies how Intelligent Transport Systems allow existing transport systems to be optimised – as an increasingly low-cost alternative to building more infrastructure.
Solutions such as Adaptive Traffic Signal Control, Corridor Management Systems and Traffic Incident Management are making traffic management smarter inside existing infrastructure constraints.
This intro from Swinburne University’s Future Urban Mobility Masterclass gives a nice summary from the transport sector:
Optimise what you have, based on evidence…
“We have the technology”. And the systems that we inherited from the 20th century are typically 1-2% resource efficient. With an increasing number of smart technology tools, we have enormous scope to radically improve our systems’ efficiencies WITHOUT necessarily building more expensive infrastructure.
This isn’t just true for transport, it’s true for everything from building efficiency to preventing food waste.
So if you’re facing a sustainability challenge, explore the systems in play and seek for ways to optimise what exists. Take the time to define the systems that exist and the ways they interact.
Tempting as it can be to leap into new developments, there may be smarter, less expensive solutions waiting to be uncovered – or synthesized from existing components.
A useful handbook on the thinking process in doing this is Luigi Bistagnino’s ebook SYSTEMIC DESIGN Designing production and environmental sustainability
Is this just a transport solution? NO
While this post came out of an article about transport optimisation, here’s a recent article on AI and food waste Food Waste Is a Serious Problem. AI Is Trying to Solve It