This recent headline in Autocar Magazine, describes an ingenious new traffic system that predicts problems and helps motorists avoid them.

However, if other stories are to be believed, the Sat-Nav satellites are antiquated and falling out of orbit, and not being replaced, then this innovation may be futile.

The Transport and Streets page of Birmingham City Council’s website has a link to help2travel. This offers travel information direct to internet-enabled mobile phones. The phone can read bar codes and get real-time information regarding buses, trains, car parks and traffic disruption. As some of the information already exists, the real innovation with “Smart Roads” is the accessibility and interconnection of the system. Being linked to the system, and being tracked, helps to improve the accuracy of the data for all users.

As a land-locked city with no navigable river, Birmingham has a history of embracing the latest transport solution. Birmingham built canals quickly and expanded accordingly. Two hundred years later and Birmingham built roads ruthlessly.

As someone who believes in a vibrant city, where the interaction between people doing various activities is interesting and stimulating, any innovation that keeps the city relevant and efficient is good.

Usually ideas that address this issue, see a future of better public transport and home working, with people only interacting with their colleagues via electronic media. I believe in a good public transport system, but find the idea of having to work from home depressing. All the chance meetings in the city, that help you grow intellectually, and give ideas will be gone. It will be like working in a vacuum. Birmingham used to be: “A city of a thousand trades.” In that environment, ideas developed by coexisting “cheek by jowl”.

I’m sure there will soon be much more efficient / greener public transport that will probably be electrically powered. Likewise, cars will need to be more efficient / smaller / lighter and electrically powered. Development of electric vehicles (EV’s) is currently huge. Battery technology is improving rapidly, with quicker charging and greater range. Other technologies will assist EV’s, including regenerative braking, solar panels on cars, stop start systems etc.

However, if this future does happen then we need to generate much more electricity and it of course it needs to be sustainable / green. If just 25% of all the cars on the road currently were EV’s and were recharging overnight on an 8 hour charge, then the National Grid would collapse overnight.

So a much more radical view of energy production is required, that almost certainly necessitates the use of nuclear power. If we want to maintain our living standards, unpalatable truths need to be addressed quickly.

It takes TIME to plan and develop new, safe, greener power.

Mark Bryant