Industry Insights

The Future of Public Transportation is Autonomous and Cognitive

Cognitive TransportationImagine a world where the use of public transportation is as easy as one click on your mobile phone. Many commuters already expect it today. This future of transportation is connected to citizen driven Mobility as a Service, where autonomous vehicles supported by cognitive technology will provide a strong foundation for these new mobility services.

Autonomous Public Transportation

Automotive and transportation markets are busy with many ongoing autonomous pilots.  The promise of these pilots is showing that self-driven vehicles will have an important role in the future transportation eco-system. Autonomous vehicles are slowly making their way into public transportation in a form of self-driven mini-buses. A full integration of these autonomous mini-buses into existing public transportation network is closer than we think. These mini-buses will extend the reach of the public transportation for the first or last mile of a longer trip. They will also help to increase the public transportation coverage in many new areas without public transportation today. There will be many positive impacts on:

  • Transportation efficiency by shifting travelers from using private cars to public transportation. This will also help to optimise the street space in highly dense city areas.
  • Road safety by providing safer and more reliable transportation service.
  • Healthier environment because the electricity will power autonomous mini-buses which will decrease  CO2 emission.
  • Integration of walking and biking into the transportation ecosystem.

Main benefits for society will be more convenient public transportation and lower operational cost. Citizens will greatly benefit because mobility services will gain a better coverage in urban and rural areas. This should motivate governments to create policies which would shape a new generation of urban planning and design. However, there are many challenges which need to be solved by legislators, manufactures, technology companies and operators. Many players in the transportation ecosystem have already recognized it, which resulted in quite few autonomous pilots happening around the globe. These initiatives are bringing the latest technical innovations in autonomous technology into our daily lives. Most importantly, these pilots are also preparing governments for the reality of autonomous vehicles in public transportation.

Cognitive Public Transportation

The cognitive technology has the capability to understand, reason and learn. This can assist transportation operators to meet citizens’ expectations from mobility services. The exciting example is the first self-driven vehicle with IBM advanced cognitive computing capabilities. This vehicle, dubbed “Olli,” is an autonomous electric vehicle. It can carry up to 12 people and it is equipped with some of the world’s most advanced vehicle technology, including IBM Watson Internet of Things. 

Olli utilizes the cloud-based cognitive computing capability of IBM Watson Internet of Things to analyze and learn from high volumes of data. This data are produced by sensors embedded throughout the vehicle. IBM Cognitive technology allows passengers to interact conversationally with Olli while traveling from point A to point B. This interactive discussion is a natural channel to provide personalized services and makes the ride more convenient and enjoyable.


Further, the cognitive technology can help autonomous fleet operators to optimise the network coverage by address demand changes in a real-time. It helps to improve the proactive maintenance for fleets and provide insights needed for deployment planning of autonomous mini-buses.

Finally, from the government perspective the autonomous mini-buses combined with cognitive technology will help to realize the “anywhere and anytime” paradigm of new citizen services.

I encourage you join me in the discussion about this topic: Leave me a comment, hook up with me on Twitter (@miroholecy) or on LinkedIn.

CTO - Transportation and National Infrastructure

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