Friday , 3 April 2020

Digital Innovations for Mobility

Rao agreed with the point of physical infrastructure and said that it had to be substantiated by IT right from the designing board. “Absolutely,” agreed Malik. “The transport sector as a whole needs to have complete integration. Why the Cargo part of the railways is shrinking and increasing in case of Port? 65% of the cargo is carried by road but I am not happy. It is the railways or inland waterways or the 7000km of coastline that must carry it and that shift has to be brought in. Similarly, in case of mobility, we need to have integrated transport system. So, when I want to go to a place I should know the bus timing, be able to buy a ticket for bus which is tied up with rail and airport, and my return ticket. So, unless you integrate all the transport modes and eventually these three talk to each other, we will not be reaching the optimal use”.

Raising the point of Elctric Cars on which Srivastava gave a detailed picture in his Special address, Rao said, “The decision is still voluntary. I still prefer to drive an electric car but then the choices are limited. We also listen to lot of stories about what Tesla is doing around the electric cars and how they brought about the design element and the power element into EVs”. He asked Srivastava if a little ‘government-policy-push’ would do wonders in people adapting to EVs!

“We are in the process of coming out with our recommendations and policy formulations,” said the Advisor to NITI Aayog. “The government should certainly play a role and it did play a role historically. The coming of Suzuki, Maruti in India, and the way the eco-system of the suppliers and component manufacturers was developed, is history. But we certainly learned a lesson from this. I wouldn’t say it did not follow a proper path or it did not help the economy. It certainly helped the economy — about 7.2% in the GDP is contributed by automobile sector. A large proportion is exported but there is still scope to do better. “

Srivastava added, “I would also like to emphasize that the initiative or the entrepreneurship lies with the industry. We can provide a system or ambience or eco-system or environment. Nobody can deny the positives of EVs in terms of environment, with less parts and uses. But the other usages are the rate of employment the automobile industry provides to a low skilled person. The government must come out and play a proactive role”.

Srivastava was of the opinion that an integration of not only the roads but also the power for charging was essential. “This energy should come from clean source/energy, only then the battery should be charged”, he said. “And this requires integration of three-or four ministries”.

Adding to Srivastava’s observations, Malik said, “The Niti Aayog is already being tasked for working on a roadmap for EVs. We are looking at it because it will give us a lot of comfort with the recommendations of the Aayog, which would be a third-party recommendation. Otherwise, we are looked upon as a vested interest party. In a recently held conference, Minister Nitin Gadkari was very tough in his stance. He said that, he wanted to reduce the dependence of the country on imported oil and EVs have to be put in place”.

Krishna Prasad, a strong advocate of Public Transport, was of the opinion that though EVs had great advantages, they posed challenges too. “40% of the EV cost will come from the battery. There are discussions about solutions like having the entire chassis itself as the battery but, at present, the smart solution appears to be swapping and stacking of the batteries on a longer run”.

“User-centric mobility is all about the aggregation element; integrated and intelligent transportation; automation and safety because we are living in a very connected world; and integration of the sensors and telematics in our framework of transportation.”

– Lux Rao

Aggregators changing the characteristics of transport in India was a highly discussed topic. Rao said that the trend of bike-sharing was becoming very popular amongst the millennials and the tech-savvy generation. And posed a question to Prasad: “Aggregators have disrupted businesses in a big way but who takes the responsibility if something untoward happens?”

Said Prasad: “Indian cities are growing. That leads to migration but despite the rise in population, the roads remain the same. So, the challenge is: how are you going to move such a large population because you cannot build so many flyovers? I am very passionate about public transport but are they integrated?”

He added, “It is a fashion to talk about the vehicle but as a country we need to talk about public transport. Having said that, the aggregators play an important role when it comes to last mile connectivity. They reduce carbon footprints and have many other advantages. However, the biggest challenge is the convenience of the passengers or commuters. So, if the aggregators provide us that convenience, we need to push or promote the aggregators healthily. There are certain security and safety issues, we need to squarely look into those issues and sort them. We need not overtly worry about them because we can easily find the solution. Few reasons that are bothering the aggregators are the permits. The nation will address the issue very soon”.

Rao averred that saying that “what worked in Brazil could also work in Bengaluru” was over simplifying the problem. He asked Wali if he, from the perspective of ‘Operation Technology’, believed that the solutions could work from the Indian point of view on a retrofit mode? He also wanted to know if there was a baseline that needed to happen before we thought of such solutions.

Wali was of the view that there was ample opportunity for implementing and deploying technology in integrated and intelligent transportation system. “Today we cannot say with confidence that these many cities have invested in technological solutions in the context of integrated and intelligent transport systems in India whereas Italy and France have deployed technology very productively”, he said. “But why are we not having great references in India despite a few cities investing in and deploying technology? Because we do not take its governance model seriously. Technology gets deployed but we ignore it. For example: city A invests heavily in technology but is the city using the information that comes in at the depo level for scheduling & planning of the fleet? Is the information used properly for better safety & services to the users of the city? Is the information reaching the administrators of the fleet operators correctly? I think these are the basic questions that need to be answered because only then will ROI be received on investment, otherwise it will be a dull and dud investment made on account of technology”.

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