Each year, just before Spring Festival celebrations begin in China, billions of people all over the country pack their bags for a journey back to their hometown. This could take days, or even weeks, but it doesn’t matter – they must make it back in time for reunion dinner. This phenomenon – known as the Spring Festival Travel Rush – has generated such a buzz over the years that it has a dedicated news page on China Daily’s website.

Granted, transport systems don’t experience this sort of frenzy all-year round. Yet, as cities become more crowded and people become more mobile, how can the transportation industry cope with these burdens?

GovInsider spoke to smart transport experts at the recent Intelligent Transport Systems World Congress to learn how predictive technology, multi-tasking cameras and face recognition can transform the way we travel. “It’s about using new technologies to serve traditional industries like transportation,” says Eman Liu, President of the Transport Business Department at Huawei’s Enterprise Business Group.

Better road experience for drivers

Driving can be a stressful experience, but a new tech that predicts road conditions can help drivers be safer. For instance, if a driver is approaching a junction at high speed, but there are schoolchildren about to cross the road, the car will alert the driver in advance to slow down. This predictive technology can potentially decrease the number of car accidents and make roads much safer.

This new tech is powered by ICT sensors, which connects vehicles to the people, infrastructure, and other vehicles around it. This allows cars to tell drivers important information about surrounding road conditions.

Smarter cars can make the daily commute smoother as well – by informing drivers when the peak periods are and recommending alternative routes. China’s Wuxi city is currently implementing this technology in its public buses.

Smart transportation also extends to integrating different forms of transport, all so passengers can get a seamless travel experience. On-demand services can be coordinated through a centralised command centre, so that customers have a taxi waiting for them the moment they touch down at the airport.

Tolls can be another source of congestion on the roads. Huawei has recently pioneered a new way of powering Open Road Tolling (ORT) systems, which could improve traffic flow tremendously. Cameras are fixed on top of the toll gates, so cars can pay for tolls without stopping – similar to Singapore’s existing Electronic Road Pricing system. China will upgrade all of its highways to replace manual toll booths with ORT within two years.

Huawei has also developed a multi-functioning camera which can support several softwares and uses. “Currently, in many countries and cities, the toll gates have many cameras. There’s one for catching speeding cars, there’s another for car plate recognition, and so on,” says Liu. This new camera does it all in one, saving sums of money.

Data collected by this camera can also be analysed internally. This brings a number of benefits – it saves the time and cost of sending the data for external analysis; it’s better for privacy and security; and remote areas don’t lose out because of weaker connectivity.

Safer roads

“The moment you have smart transport, it means you have a safe city,” says shared Thomas Snyman, Chairman of the Intelligent Transport Society (ITS) of South Africa and Huawei’s ITS Solutions Director. For electric vehicles in particular, tech can keep track of vehicles that had previously been in an accident or a robbery to make sure that drivers are safe. High risk vehicles carrying dangerous commodities like oil are also tracked, just in case an accident occurs.

Tech can help with law enforcement as well. Wayward and reckless drivers guilty of wrong way driving or illegal turning can be traced and fined.

More efficient city planning

For a long time, usually cities have been building independent metro lines, with each line having its own and siloed ICT infrastructure. “It’s very difficult to manage and share the data amongst the metro lines,” says Liu.

This will cause a problem as cities grow their metro network. “The fact is, if you have a very good layout, you may share these ICT resources for current operation and future digitalization” explains Liu.

Huawei’s cloud-based digital platform of Metro will allow metro lines to share ICT infrastructure, improve the value of Data, save space and resources of equipments, and finally it will benefit to metro operation. This digital platform will allow data about passenger flow, train faults, and employees from all metro lines to be stored and processed in one platform for creating a truly interconnected metro network.

“Currently, most governments have a very clear planning for expanding their cities’ metro lines”, says Liu. For instance, Shenzhen currently has 8 metro lines, but they have planning for more than 30 lines. “This solution matches the current and future needs.” he adds.

Better flight experience

Shenzhen’s smart airport is using face recognition technology to trace passengers who are late to board their flight. In the future, instead of merely reciting an announcement, the airport will send a staff member directly to stray passengers to escort them and ensure that they get to their flight on time.

Passengers will also get a more personalised service at Shenzhen airport. They will no longer have to comb through flight information boards jam-packed with irrelevant information. One glance at the screen, and it will pull up their flight number and boarding gate – all thanks to face recognition technology.

Singapore is also using facial recognition at its airport. This tech is currently used at luggage drop-off counters and immigration checkpoints.

Roads, rail lines and airways are being transformed by predictive technology, smart cameras, cloud platforms and face recognition. “Transportation is a very traditional industry,” says Liu. But it’s ready for some disruption.