The availability and accuracy of the Global Positioning System (GPS) offers increased efficiency and safety for vehicles using highways, streets, and mass transit systems. Many of the problems associated with the routing and dispatch of commercial vehicles is significantly reduced or eliminated with the help of GPS. This is also true for the management of mass transit systems, road maintenance crews, and emergency vehicles.
GPS enables automatic vehicle location and in-vehicle navigation systems that are widely used throughout the world today. By combining GPS position technology with systems that can display geographic information or with systems that can automatically transmit data to display screens or computers, a new dimension in surface transportation is realized.
A geographic information system (GIS) stores, analyzes, and displays geographically referenced information provided in large part by GPS. Today GIS is used to monitor vehicle location, making possible effective strategies that can keep transit vehicles on schedule and inform passengers of precise arrival times. Mass transit systems use this capability to track rail, bus, and other services to improve on-time performance.
A critical component of any successful rescue operation is time. Knowing the precise location of landmarks, streets, buildings, emergency service resources, and disaster relief sites reduces that time — and saves lives. This information is critical to disaster relief teams and public safety personnel in order to protect life and reduce property loss. The Global Positioning System (GPS) serves as a facilitating technology in addressing these needs.
GPS has played a vital role in relief efforts for global disasters such as the tsunami that struck in the Indian Ocean region in 2004, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita that wreaked havoc in the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, and the Pakistan-India earthquake in 2005. Search and rescue teams used GPS, geographic information system (GIS), and remote sensing technology to create maps of the disaster areas for rescue and aid operations, as well as to assess damage.
Using GPS technology to help track and forecast the movement of freight has made a logistical revolution, including an application known as time-definite delivery. In time-definite delivery, trucking companies use GPS for tracking to guarantee delivery and pickup at the time promised, whether over short distances or across time zones. When an order comes in, a dispatcher punches a computer function, and a list of trucks appears on the screen, displaying a full array of detailed information on the status of each of them. If a truck is running late or strays off route, an alert is sent to the dispatcher.
Many nations use GPS to help survey their road and highway networks, by identifying the location of features on, near, or adjacent to the road networks. These include service stations, maintenance and emergency services and supplies, entry and exit ramps, damage to the road system, etc. The information serves as an input to the GIS data gathering process. This database of knowledge helps transportation agencies to reduce maintenance and service costs and enhances the safety of drivers using the roads.