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Plans of new Transport Minister include drones and AI to manage traffic

  • New Transport Minister Barbara Creecy says that embracing digital technologies like drones for delivery and AI-managed traffic are focus areas of her department.
  • The minister also says that making roads safer, clearing blockages at key border points and fixing Transnet are other key areas.
  • The Department of Transport will also be implementing a strategy to embrace more low-carbon forms of public transport, like new energy vehicles (NEVs).

Previously minister of the environment, the new transport minister of South Africa Barbara Creecy ushered in her executive on Monday in Pretoria, opening this year’s Southern African Transport Conference.

In a speech, the minister outlined the problems facing South Africa’s roads and transport industries, as well as the points her executive will be focusing on in the next five years.

Between promises to make road transport safer for South Africans and slow down the rate at which people are killed on the country’s roads – around 12 000 every year, the minister also detailed plans to integrate digital technology and renewable energy innovations into the country’s roads infrastructure.

“Such innovations include operational automation and real-time tracking of shipments to assist in port management, digital signalling to modernise the management of our railway system, and the use of artificial intelligence in traffic management, and the introduction of self-drive vehicles and drones for delivery,” said Creecy.

“It won’t be long before [the use of these technologies] is upscaled throughout our logistics supply chain,” she adds, noting that exhibitors at the Southern African Transport Conference are already demonstrating these technologies to attendees.

Creecy adds that in line with the global transition to new energy vehicles (NEVs), that Europe and the state of New York will ban the sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, South Africa must also invest in “green energy infrastructure; promoting the uptake of alternative fuels such as biogas, and green hydrogen, extending the rail network to provide alternative public transport.”

She says that these initiatives will promote low-carbon technologies and that the implementation strategy of this goal “will be a priority for our Department in this term of government.”

Of course, the minister does not indicate when she will begin setting any of these plans into action, and she has a number of serious problems facing the country’s transport infrastructure breathing down her neck.

This includes issues that the National Logistics Crisis Committee (NLCC) was set up by President Cyril Ramaphosa and her predecessor Sindisiwe Chikunga, to confront. Addressing the backlog at key border posts such as Komatipoort and Beitbridge, making traffic move smoother through important national highways like the N1 and N3 are among the focuses for the new minster.

And of course, the spectre of Transnet and its enormous failings in the last five years hangs high and sharp above the Department of Transport’s many heads.

“I can report today that continuous work is being done to rehabilitate and open up more strategic commuter corridors. This will ensure that the public can rely on safe, secure, punctual, and affordable public rail services that will not hinder their participation in the economy,” said Creecy, adding that the NLCC will be open to both public and private contributions in tackling the many problems facing South Africa’s roads, rails and other transport infrastructure.

[Image – SA Department of Transport]

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