Uses of Computers in Land Transportation

By Lee Morgan

The move from manually run systems to computerized automation and calculations moves farther along every day. One aspect of life that computers are used for in abundance is travel and transportation. Those traveling by air rely on a long list of computer systems to get them from point A to point B. But even if you are using land transportation, it is very likely you’ll encounter one or more computer systems during your journey.

Car Navigation

One common computer used in land transportation today is the Global Positioning System, or GPS. This form of car navigation is used for everyday travel for many people. These navigation computers are typically mounted on the dashboard of a car and feature a screen that shows a map that tracks your vehicle’s movement via satellite signals. These extremely accurate devices can pinpoint your location to within 100 feet. Some cellular phones even have the technology built in. The navigation system will talk to the driver to let him know when to prepare to make turns, how far it is until the next required turn, and can estimate to the minute when the vehicle will arrive at the preferred destination.

Positive Train Control

Positive Train Control, referred to as PTC by the Federal Railroad Administration, is the computer system that tracks the movement of trains on various railways around the country. PTC technology is capable of preventing train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and the associated deaths or injuries. A 2008 federal law now mandates the widespread use of PTC by December 2015. Prior to 2008, many trains ran without the benefit of this computer safety system. PTC systems are not all identical, but serve similar purposes. Metro train and subway systems and various freight and passenger train companies use various computer programs to maintain positive train control within their systems.


Families planning road trips or truckers looking for an alternative route to a destination often use their home computers, laptops or even smart phones to better understand the lay of the land. Driving directions and corresponding maps are available from websites like Yahoo!, Google and many others. A mapping program on each of the websites enables travelers to input a current location and any destination address, and get detailed turn-by-turn directions that will take the driver right to the door of where they want to go. The computer will allow you to see a visual map, a list of verbal directions, the total mileage down to 1/10 of a mile and the total driving time, including potential traffic slow-downs. Some websites even offer updates on traffic jams and offer quicker alternatives.

Online Booking

Traveling by land by bus or train typically begins with online booking on the computer. Companies like Greyhound or Amtrak have websites that let people plan trips using their services. You can enter the date of departure and return and the destination, and the computer screen will display ticket prices, itineraries and offer the option to book and pay for the trip right online with a credit card.