Smart Technologies have fascinated people for a long time, be it the smartphones, smartwatches and the health tracking devices that are in trend. These technologies are rigorously evolving to reshape the conduct of everything around them making life unthinkable without them. However, apart from these smart gadgets, what we usually discount is the infrastructure that is becoming smart these days. One such avenue of Smart Infrastructure is Smart Transportation which has made great strides due to the advent of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Traffic Engineering.
Why and How?
In the past decade technology has altered the functioning of infrastructure in most of the developed countries. However, in the developing world, which lacks even basic infrastructure in some cases, Smart Technology might prove to ease or even help leapfrog the problems. In 2015, India announced an ambitious project called the “Smart City Mission” for the renewal and retrofitting of its decrepitude urban infrastructure. The Mission identifies 10 core infrastructure elements as essential for a Smart City and “Efficient Urban Mobility and Public Transport” is one of them. For this element the essential features/challenges that are identified are: creating walkable localities by reducing congestion, air pollution and resource depletion; Boosting local economy, promote interactions and ensure security; Create or refurbish road networks not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists and promote a variety of transport options to achieve Transit Oriented Development(TOD), better public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity.
Information and Communication Technology
To resolve the several problems and achieve several of such objectives Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) is a credible resource. ITS is an established route to resolve problems related to traffic in all modes of transportation — air, land (road and rail)and sea. Depending upon the geography, culture, economy and environmental conditions, several countries have designed different strategies and systems to integrate ITS with the conventional systems. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is a term that covers several of the elements involved in ITS. A connected ICT Infrastructure consists of three dimensions: Systems for collection of data (monitoring and positioning systems), Systems and protocols for communicating data (e.g. between traffic control centers and to and from vehicles) and quality of the data (accuracy, timeliness).
Traffic Management System (ATMS, MIS, ITMS, TIS): The idea behind a traffic management system is to collect vehicular data, develop predictive models and help manage the mobility and safety on roads. The key areas controlled under ATMS (Advanced Traffic Management System) are: Real Time Traffic Monitoring, Dynamic Message Signs, Incident Monitoring, Active Traffic Management, Road Weather Information gathering etc. These systems are based on a suitable MIS (Management Information System) either an Enterprise Resource Planning System (ERP) that has a software module and a database or a Knowledge Management System (KMS) that involves collecting, recording, organizing, retrieval and dissemination of knowledge. Meanwhile Integrated Transportation Management System (ITMS) takes it further by adding a component of Traveler Information System (TIS) that provides real-time data and information to the road user to improve mobility.
Improving Law Enforcement: One of the 3 E’s for ensuring smooth functioning of traffic on roads is Enforcement (other 2 being Engineering and Education). Violation of Traffic rules and poor law enforcement is a challenge that most countries face. Apart from their conventional purpose, cameras are proving much more useful for ensuring safety and proper enforcement of law. There are essentially 2 categories: Traffic Cameras that are connected via optical fibres, powered using solar panels and Road Safety Cameras which serve in law enforcement by detecting violations, Over-speeding, Unauthorized use of restricted lanes and Automatic Recognition of Number Plates . Apart from these the use LIDAR speed gun is also becoming popular in data collection and law enforcement.
Intelligent Lighting: The frequency of accidents and fatalities occurring at night is several times high (in Vehicle-Kilometer) than that during day. The most obvious cause being the poor visibility at night. Street Lights that were conventionally tasked for lighting purposes are now being re-invented to serve several purposes such as SOS terminals to control crime, WiFi service providers, Mobile service boosters, poles for Digital Street Signages, Facade lightening etc.
Mobile App based Governance: Smart infrastructure won’t be much efficient if it isn’t braced by citizens. Mobile apps are surely gaining heft in e-governance in several countries especially India that has launched a comprehensive “Digital India” program. In several countries, their respective city administrations have developed Pan-city Dashboard (Smart-City Dashboards) that offer app based services for the people. These apps are also a useful source of disseminating information to the common masses.
Apart from these several other applications such as Real-time monitoring of freight, Intelligent Parking Management Systems, Online Automatic Challans, Conflict Mitigation systems are changing the way we engage with Traffic for better.
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