A Brief History of Smart Transportation Infrastructure

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Abstract

This article argues that smart transportation—understood as convergences of communication and transportation infrastructure to facilitate movement—has long been manifested in what John Urry has described as nexus systems, or those that require many elements to work synchronously.1 Understanding smart infrastructures as those aligning with twenty-first-century sensibilities concerning technology, convenience, safety, and security, I demonstrate a longer trajectory for this seemingly new trend in three cases: (1) the synchronization of the train with the telegraph, (2) the organization of early automobility, and (3) information-rich/connected automobility and the driverless car. Rethinking smart infrastructure historically reveals a long-existing tendency rather than a new one to manage movement via communication technologies.

Contributor Notes

Kathleen F. Oswald is an adjunct instructor in the Communication Department at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania, where she teaches classes in new media, media literacy, mass communication, and visual communication. Her interdisciplinary research focuses on smart technologies, critical infrastructure, cyberwar, and television. She received her PhD in communication, rhetoric, and digital media at North Carolina State University in 2011. E-mail: kathleen.oswald@villanova.edu