Only a handful of cities in India have opted for intelligent transport systems (ITS) whose benefits are varied. Adoption of ITS will result in less expense for the government and more convenience for the passenger. India‘s Smart Cities Mission recognises the need for technology in our day-to-day commuting. But challenges still remain.
Shreya Sinha & Karthik Krishnan
Last week, Bengaluru’s buses turned smart: the city fitted its buses with a global positioning system which would track their timings along with travel routes and feed real-time information to the passenger through an app. Come July, the city plans to hand out smart cards which can be used by passengers to buy tickets on buses and metros. All these measures come under intelligent transport systems (ITS) which make use of technology to address travel-related woes. And yet Bengaluru is only among a few Indian metros like New Delhi and Pune that have opted for ITS -- a market which is globally expected to grow at a compounded annual rate of over 8 percent in the next four years.
India has barely scratched the surface of what ITS could do. To be sure, the Smart Cities Mission has made a start. The government’s proposal to spend Rs 48,000 crore over the next five years has made technology the key driver of a city’s future. Transport of all kinds – road, railways and air -- will gain from this focus.
Recently at an event, Vinit Goenka, a member of the IT-Task Force of the Ministry of Road, Transport, Highways and Shipping, said, "We have taken various initiatives to adapt technologies in road transport and highways." One of the solutions Goenka was talking about was 'on-vehicle smart module' (OVSM). Once installed in a vehicle, toll collection, automatic parking, over-speeding detection and fines will be managed better.
Each year about Rs 60,000 crore goes down the drain due to fuel wastage from traffic jams and waiting time at toll plazas. This wastage will come down, thanks to OVSM, added Goenka.
Such technologies are already in use in Singapore, Switzerland, Germany, the Netherlands and the US.
This month, the Delhi government announced that it was going to allow passengers book tickets on premium buses using an app. This app will be rolled out by bus aggregators who will have to ply a minimum of 50 buses.
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has said that the rail ministry will start a Rs 50-crore fund to support IT companies who can come up with innovative solutions for the railways. "We are looking for solutions in critical areas such as customer interface and IT security," Prabhu said.
However, challenges still remain. Very often integrating the many ITS applications across all formats of transport will be difficult. Second, there are no clear guidelines. India's ITS can't be modelled on other nations, because there are cultural and political differences. And last, high costs of setting up technology is a bummer.