Among all industries, the transport sector remains one of the top contributors and sources of pollution

In fact, UK figures show that the transportation industry accounts for 26% of all greenhouse gas emissions, closely followed by the energy sector at 25%. These numbers can partly be explained by the growth of passenger and freight mobility, with the demand for goods consistently rising and passenger transportation becoming increasingly accessible. Due to this, it is of the opinion of many that the transport industry should be actively looking for ways to curb its emissions.

Thankfully, innovations in technology have shown great promise in helping the transport sector curtail its carbon footprint, especially through he development of AI and compute. The below article looks at how AI is driving the transport industry to a more sustainable and eco-conscious future. Below is a list of AI solutions that push for sustainability in the transport sector.

Autonomous Vehicles

AI has brought about the age of self-driving vehicles. Autonomous vehicles work by using AI software connected to sensors around the car, as well as data from Google Street View. This allows the vehicle’s AI system to simulate human perception and make independent decisions concerning driver control systems like steering, braking, and parking. What’s great about autonomous vehicles is that they’re usually electrically powered as seen with Tesla’s line-up — creating a cleaner and smarter mode of transportation. An article by Money Crashers points out that electric cars reign supreme when it comes to sustainability, as their efficiency rate can go up as high as 95%. To compare, a traditional combustion engine’s efficiency rate only goes as high as 30%.

Autonomous vehicles aren't limited to just cars, either. Freight companies have also looked into autonomous lorries to deliver goods in a safer and more fuel-efficient manner. This goes to show that AI-led innovations like self-driving vehicles are taking steps in the right direction when it comes to saving the earth.

Traffic Management

Cities all over the world should look to enhance their traffic management systems if they want their infrastructure to be maximised and to avoid road congestion. Delays in goods and transportation have economic repercussions, so it’s crucial to achieve the utmost efficiency in transportation systems. Here in the UK, a report on Verizon Connect highlights how traffic jams cost the economy £9 billion every year in wasted time, fuel, and greenhouse gas emissions. One traffic jam lasted a whopping 15 hours across 57 km. And as transport managers continue to find ways to optimise routes and avoid traffic jams, managing our roads continues to be a challenge because of the sheer number and complexity of the variables that influence traffic flow.

In response, specialists in traffic management are looking to feeding AI systems with data from connected travellers, vehicles, and freight transports. Through this, AI software can effectively predict traffic flow in real-time, and provide road traffic managers a systematised plan to make traffic cost- and fuel-efficient. AI in traffic management can also bolster road safety, as traffic models created by AI software can highlight vulnerable areas in present road and traffic conditions.

Predicting Consumer Demand

The supply chain directly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions made by the transportation industry. It can’t be helped that goods need to be shipped on a daily basis, so logistics companies tend to create more waste and increase their carbon footprint than other sectors in the transport industry. What’s worse is that sometimes goods can be delivered but not claimed, so both companies and the environment suffer in terms of wasted resources and precious time. To be more sustainable, supply chain companies need to minimise wasted journeys. This is where AI comes in.

AI subsets like machine learning and predictive analysis can help manufacturers anticipate demand, streamline supply, and optimise manufacturing processes. As AI provides meaningful insights on the delivery and non-receipt of goods, logistics companies will then get a better sense of what goods to ship and even craft energy-saving routes in response. This technology has been used by huge retailers like H&M in an effort to achieve sustainability and supply chain efficiency. Since this AI solution tackles environmental problems from the source of the goods themselves, sustainability then subsequently spills over to transportation and logistics.

AI has always been at the forefront of the battle against climate change ⁠— from improving electrical grid designs, to being used by Rainforest Connection to locate sites of illegal logging. The technology also shows a huge potential to make the transport sector sustainable, too, as seen in the examples we’ve listed above. Without a doubt, all industries should look to mitigating their carbon emissions, but a sector as massive as transportation needs to step up their sustainability practices. As engineers and scientists continue to improve AI solutions, the technology will soon help the transport industry to accomplish full sustainability and eco-efficiency throughout all forms and processes.

Author - Paula Thompson