How an intelligent transport system can make commuting a happier experience

by Arun Kumar Dey 27 Aug 2019


Here's a real-world scenario. Anita is into her first job and commutes from home to office in her favourite bus (No. 473 ) every day from  Ashok Vihar to Siri Fort in the city of Delhi. She cannot afford to hire an Uber and metro trains are not exactly closeby, hence the public utility bus is a convenient option for her.  In an overcrowded bus, she has to manoeuvre her way inside  and after a while, she manages a seat as a passenger decides to get off. But she is not at ease since the bus is packed with passengers and is aso apprehensive that someone may nudge her inappropriately, or lose something valuable to a thief.

However, with the introduction of AIS 140 (Automotive Industry Standards 140 ), Anita is under no stress while travelling as she is aware that there are panic buttons installed inside the bus. In case of any untoward incident, all she has to do is to press the panic button, after which the administration and the police will take over things.

Not only Anita but other people to benefit include older commuters, children, the differently abled or even drivers who can use the panic button to trigger an alert and seek help. And this safety measure is also applicable to taxis and trucks with national permits.

Why an Intelligent Transport System matters
With a population of over 1.3 billion population and approximately 30 million cars on roads, car ownership in India is far too low compared to the US, Europe or Japan. Barring two-wheeler riders, quite a large chunk of the population is dependent on public transport, which at present leaves a lot to be desired.

This is where ITS or the Intelligent Transport System makes tremendous sense to come into effect and eanble comfortable commuting. ITS comprises an information and communication technology that senses, analyses and communicates meaningful information to ground transport to bring about an overall enhancement in the transport system and relief for regular commuters. 

ITS results
ITS is very much an integral part of the transport system in many countries, in action for many years. ITS in each country stands for certain mandates specific to that country and is intended to deliver features as required by local conditions. Studies reveal that after implementation of ITS, there have been significant improvements, which are reflected in fewer number of vehicles caught overspeeding, reduction in the number of road crashes, and considerable fuel saving due to the reduced idling.

ITS: the Indian version
In India, ITS aims to enhance efficiency, quality, comfort and safety in the overall public transportation space. To deliver this in a country like India, it required many years of hard work by multiple stakeholder groups like ARAI, AISC, CMVR, BIS and DIMTS under the aegis of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH).

AIS140 (Automotive Industry Standards 140) is one of the elements of ITS which has come into effect from April 2019 and this version has the usage of IRNSS ( Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System). AIS involves device, software, dual-SIM profiles, panic buttons, cables  and accessories. Features, standards, technical specifications of hardware, software and FOTA and SIM connectivity guidelines are articulated by the government bulletins from time to time. 

How ITS works
Devices installed in vehicles constantly capture the data of speed, location and time, the data continually flowing through the telecom network and eventually reflecting in the portal managed by the command and control centre in every state. Historic data is also stored for a defined duration. In the event of a drop in connectivity in a network, there is a provision for the device to latch on to another network.

The centre has the capability of interpreting vehicle-wise data. Transport efficiency can be enhanced by tracking vehicles live, looking for idling, and/or route deviation. Similarly, driving behaviour and driver rating can be evaluated through data on rapid acceleration, harsh braking and sharp turns. While safety has been explained above, much more can be achieved by sending alerts on overspeeding, device tampering and geofence breach. Furthermore, one can look back on a trip history by tracking the vehicle on the reverse. Pressing of a panic button triggers a  message to the police department as well for the rescue operation.

Roles participants play in ITS
Getting ITS into operation calls for many players, starting with the vehicle itself. All vehicles coming within the ambit of AIS140 have to install a device. Each device has a dual profile E-SIM working on two different Mobile Network Operators. Without the certified device, the vehicle is declined a fitness certificate by the RTO, which will result in the vehicle going off the road. Organisations like ARAI  and ICAT conduct stringent quality checks before certifying these devices. Suppliers of these devices have to upload the inventory in the Vahan portal.  A Command & Control Centre can track, analyse and take corrective actions as desired. When the panic button is pressed, the alert also reaches the police department for rapid action. ITS is successful when all these participants work seamlessly. For instance, just installing the device and not having a control centre will not serve the purpose.

Aftersales service by the device and solution providers is crucial to make the AIS program sustainable. In case of breakdowns, correct diagnosis and prompt redressal of complaints will be critical. The ability of suppliers to provide prompt service to vehicles in every nook and corner of the country will be critical to ensure maximum uptime of device and connectivity.

Going forward, with electric Vehicles coming in, a new set of participants may emerge in the form of charging stations, battery swap providers, power grid and so on.

Conclusion 
ITS is an integral part of the transport system in many countries and it has proved its mettle in upgrading the overall public transport system. There is no single template that fits all countries. The think-tank in India, with its humongous transport challenges, has carved out features which are appropriate for Indian driving conditions.

Once the fundamentals are in place, the plan can include a phase-wise rollout of additional features like Passenger Information System ( PIS), CCTV camera and toll collections.

Execution will be the key to the successful implmentation of ITS in India. Holding participants accountable to their roles and continuous monitoring of the program will help plug the gaps and create new benchmarks in the transport eco-system.         

The Author: Arun Kumar Dey is Chief Executive ( Automotive ), Reliance Retail Ltd. The views expressed are completely personal.