Get smart

Feb. 8, 2017

I’m sure a few of you remember the original TV series from the 60s with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. In 2008 there was a remake movie that did okay at the box office. But, that’s not what I am talking about in transportation and trucking. In the late 90s, when Freightliner introduced the SmartShift, I can recall the process of finding a name for the steering column mechanism for shifting an automated mechanical transmission. I was not keen on the often used “smart” being added to anything and everything at the time. Well, it’s 20 years later and “smart” still holds sway in anything and everything.

I was at a conference for the DOT SmartCities program. With that moniker in front of Cities, you can imagine that everything else was smart as well. Smart Mobility. Smart Energy. Smart Water. Smart Waste. Smart Government (is that an oxymoron?). Smart Leisure & Tourism. Smart Health. Smart Buildings. Smart Education. Smart Street Lights. Smart Bus Stops. No matter the idea, put a computer with some capability to communicate to the world (yes, the Internet of Things, IoT) and some software, and you’ve got a Smart Something. It does not matter if it is a dumb idea. Put these things together and investors will fall all over it and invest tens to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Maybe “smart” should stand for something like, “Strategic Means for Advancing Real Transportation problems.” Smart is not necessarily popular. Anyone that went to grade school and got the label “smart” was probably not among the most popular students. The same here with transportation. We don’t need smart solutions as much as we need ubiquitous solutions with a standard approach. Standards are not usually for the best and the brightest, but for the masses. All these smart people need to work to find solutions that can be affordable and reliable across the country, the continent, and the world. That’s a tall order for these smart people.

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