Vinit Goenka, Member IT Task force, Ministries of Shipping, Road Transport & Highways talks about the grave situation of road related accident deaths in India and how the developments in the field of IT can be leveraged upon to ensure safe commuting.
India has one of the largest and densest road networks in the world. However, these highways are also counted among the world’s most unsafe road networks too. According to figures from the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, India’s daily death toll due to road accidents is more than four times the annual death toll from terrorism. As many as 139,671 people lost their lives on India’s roads during 2014 – which translates to 382 deaths every day.
For comparison, if 57,844 people lost their lives due to over speeding, 6968 Indians died in 2014 because of rash driving in an inebriated state. According to some estimates, roads were at their deadliest in 2015 claiming more than 16 lives every hour on average. Over 1.41 lakh people died in crashes, three percent more than the number of fatalities in 2014.
The available data and established parameters suggest that many Indian cities are also among the polluted urban clusters of the world. Be it New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata or Chennai, people residing in all these major cities have to spend their days in exorbitantly polluted environments.
For any developed country to maintain a sustainable growth, transportation network such as ‘Roads, Highways, Ports and Waterways’ are key factors. The PM has already stated that his government will soon introduce laws to enhance road safety as traffic fatalities and injuries mount. A new Road Transport and Safety Bill is under preparation and a group of experts underlined the “urgent” need of a comprehensive national road safety legislation. The rate of road accidents is among the highest in the world and a lot of initiatives have been launched by public and private actors.
Only a mass awakening would generate a mobilisation in the society in getting rid of this situation.
IT for Parivahan
A thought on these lines struck us to conceptualise a people driven campaign in order to improve our transportation system, which in turn gave birth to ‘IT for Parivahan’, an initiative that motivated over forty five thousand people to share their ideas to overhaul our commutation apparatus.
In four months’ time and three phases of campaigning, our team of 200 volunteer technocrats at ‘IT For Parivahan’ established a direct contact with 2.5 crore Indians through social media tools, web mails and by organising seminars, live interactions and events. In return, we were flooded with responses from the respondents who not only expressed their grievances but also shared innovative ideas to overcome difficulties and hindrances they faced on a daily basis while commuting.
People shared some amazing ideas to make our transportation world class which would be cheaper, safer, faster, more regulated and pollution-free. Our campaign proved that IT plays a vital role as the single most important tool to improve efficiency, safety, durability, cost management, timeliness and transparency in transportation.
We believe it is high time to let IT take the driving seat while proposing solutions for the smarter cities with smarter transport systems.
Ideas from Citizens
Just to take an example of a crowd sourced idea during the ‘IT for Parivahan’ campaign, Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) can be developed for various vehicles by using GPS technology. The owner may get to know about the exact location of his vehicle and what is the prescribed speed limit on the stretch of road it is moving. Thus, he may install a device (through a software or app) of cutting the fuel flow, the moment a driver tries to exceed a speed limit, which makes it physically impossible for him to overspeed. These systems can be used to improve road safety, traffic efficiency and passenger comfort. A cooperative connected car, would receive not just information about a hazard detected by its own sensors (through a sound or vibration, which is more likely to catch the driver’s attention than a road sign), but also through alerts from a vehicle further along the road.
Communication systems between vehicles and infrastructure providers have the potential to revolutionise the transport sector. While “connected cars” (i.e., vehicles enabled to communicate with infrastructure through embedded devices) have existed for several years, communication and cooperation between vehicles and connected transport-related infrastructure (such as traffic lights, parking lots, etc.) is a new phenomenon.
By installing “V2X” communications (vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications—basically a variant of Wi-Fi) in vehicles, carmakers can interact directly with other vehicles and provide advanced applications by exploiting real-time data from vehicles and infrastructure.
Technology has improved lives across the board and will continue to offer opportunities to develop better public transport systems. Traditional models of the inter-relationships between service planning, operations control and passenger information, have been based largely on the independence of these functions from one another.
One of the suggestions we received during the ‘IT for Parivahan’ campaign relates to drivers having to adjust their speed to desired levels to accommodate other road user needs. Dynamic Speed Adaptation (DSA) technology offers remote speed advice to drivers about appropriate speeds in particular stretches of roadway and trials of it have already been conducted in Sweden and the Netherlands.
Cameras of every kind are already proliferating at an incredible rate to measure speeds over long distances. CCTV cameras may be installed on all traffic signals where they may read number plates of the vehicles and instantly compare them to a National Database. This means that illegal vehicles can be intercepted to bring criminals to a speedy justice.
The global status report on road safety published last year by the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that approximately 12 lakh people die every year on the world’s roads and that 27 percent of all road traffic deaths are pedestrians and cyclists. However, the same report also suggests that the countries who have implemented the first grade technologies have controlled the road rage deaths.
The IT for Parivahan campaign ultimately provides a platform to unleash the common man’s ideas related to IT solutions and use the global experience to improve our transportation. The campaign is encouraging people to come upfront and take the charge. Instead of cribbing and cursing the establishment, the campaign gives them a platform to share their vision in order to get rid of their transportation and commuting troubles.
– As told to Abhishek Raval
If you have an interesting article / experience / case study to share, please get in touch with us at [email protected]