As North America emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, the transportation sector is ready not only to rebound but also to leap ahead, thanks to a combination of advanced technology and government investment. Hitachi has three units that will work together to seize this singular opportunity: Hitachi ABB Power Grids, the transportation practice of Hitachi Vantara, and Hitachi Rail. The combined capabilities of each will deliver plentiful electrical power, innovative train engines and cars, and highly intelligent systems to handle both passengers and freight.
The Future Is Electric
Sustainability, an ongoing priority for businesses of all kinds, saw an increase in interest during the pandemic, as major investment firms such as BlackRock declared it to be a priority for their portfolios. Electric vehicles, trains in particular, are a natural beneficiary of this interest. Not only are electric trains powered by electricity, but the signal systems that control them are also electronic.
To enable the use of fleets of electric cars, trucks, buses and trains, there is much work to be done in building depots and charging stations that are tied into the power grid. Fortunately, both the Canadian and United States governments are promising billions of investment dollars for electric vehicles and the infrastructure electrification that’s needed to switch from gasoline or diesel to electrical power.
Responding to these commitments, Hitachi ABB Power Grids has launched a “grid-to-plug” solution called Grid-eMotion™ Fleet, an integrated approach that seamlessly delivers electricity from the power matrix to the vehicle. Hitachi ABB will provide complementary technology – charging, asset management and predictive maintenance – to make mobility as a service a reality.
Multimodal Transport Puts Customers First
After a pandemic in which passenger trips were cut by 90%, returning travelers are likely to view transportation with a demanding eye. Having experienced life largely without travel for over a year, they understand that travel is not always necessary. Now when they journey, they will expect an experience that makes the trip worthwhile and enjoyable, with safe, secure, convenient and comfortable service. In short, transportation systems will find it necessary as never before to focus on the customer.
High customer expectations will spur the advance of multimodal transport, in which a passenger might travel by bus, train, car or plane from one point to another. Leveraging the systems integration capabilities of Hitachi Vantara, Hitachi Rail is investing in seamless intermodal travel that features intelligently orchestrated schedules, uninterrupted service and a single electronic ticket. By tracking the flow of people and goods in real time through video, lidar and big data analytics, Hitachi Rail and Hitachi Vantara are optimizing vehicle management and maintenance to prevent crowding and avoid congestion delays. And when it comes to freight transportation, video and lidar technologies will be the eyes and ears of management systems that route pallets of goods to the cheapest, fastest and least crowded mode, whether ship, rail or truck.
One technology that saw widespread use during the pandemic to prevent infection — cashless, contactless payments enabled by Hitachi Vantara video and lidar technologies — should see even more usage as normalcy returns. With expanding use of these systems, more travelers will enjoy the dual benefits of increased convenience and reduced risk of infection from any contagious illness, not just COVID-19.
Ready To Go
The fallow period of the pandemic, while posing extreme business challenges, has provided the transportation sector with the opportunity to regroup, to focus on the most fertile areas for innovation, and to map out a path to the future. The result, powered by innovative technology and turbocharged by new government investment, will be sustainable electrical power, multimodal transport and customer-focused service that will open new horizons for mobility across North America.
Shanif Merchant is Product Management Director for Enterprise Transformations at Hitachi Vantara.