Saturday , 21 September 2019

ITS:The way forward to a smart travel

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has changed the way communication is provided in ITS. It is the basis for Dedicated Short Range Communications (DSRC). RFID finds a big place even in BRTS (Bus Rapid Transit System). Wireless Communication Systems are the lubricant to a Control Room?s successful operations.

Various countries and their companies are making a beeline to India to sell their ITS wares. Not that they aren?t welcome, it is just that our decision makers are still on a learning curve about ITS and are, either not able to take the right decisions about the right deployment or, are hesitant to replace manual work by highly technological solutions owing to the perception that ?if they are machines, they will be expensive?.

Good news is that in November 2012, Mysore City has already begun an ITS Study in its Public Transport buses. Information on the study can be read in a different article in this issue written exclusively for TrafficInfraTech by the Chief Mechanical Engineer (KSRTC) responsible for the study, S Mallikarjuna.

Why does ITS not work in India at present?

To be fair, what is mentioned above is not the only reason why ITS hasn?t caught on in India. Of course, our heterogeneous traffic doesn?t make things easy but there are other reasons too. Since various aspects of ITS are dealt with in several articles in this issue, let us concentrate on why ITS doesn?t work in India? Quite a few reasons actually.

No centralised agency to handle ITS at the government level: ITS is being used, as mentioned above too, in a fragmented manner by unconnected agencies in unconnected departments on a trial and error basis. There is no central body to guide and above all, to frame policies that can be adopted in a uniform manner all over the country.

The need: A centralised agency to frame policies for the entire country and issue directives and guidelines for them to be followed.

Need for expert knowledge: We fail at the policy making level due to less expertise in the field. Though the intentions are genuine, the enforcement agencies / administrational bodies use them according to their understanding of ITS which may not always be accurate. The people to use these technologies, i.e., who make them work are not skilled in them. For example, Delhi is adopting ITS but its senior transport officers say they face a huge problem in training their drivers to follow ITS. The other angle is that quite often, the agencies leapfrog to using advanced systems, instead of planning the basis first. This also makes the use of ITS very fragmented and ill-efficient. We often choose wrong technologies for the wrong reasons.

The need: Training / orientation workshops for officers of enforcement agencies, staff of ministries responsible (mainly MoUD and MoRTH) & decision making bodies, and executives & drivers responsible to make the technologies work are essential.

Lack of customised technologies: Technologies / solutions are used as they are ? we lack in their customisation according to Indian conditions. What works abroad may not necessarily work in India owing to traffic culture, user behaviour, climate and infrastructure and other reasons.

The need: Proper study of the technologies arriving in India or being introduced to the enforcement agencies is the need of the hour. Choice of the right solution which should then be modified according to the local needs and then put in service is essential.

Lack of in-house R & D: Since the ITS technologies themselves are relatively new in arriving in India, there are very few facilities to carry out research and development in the field. In the absence of R&D, our own development of resources in the area takes a severe beating.

The need: Develop R&D facilities under experienced and well trained senior professionals.

Suspect suppliers: Since we are beginners in the field, a few foreign companies claim expertise in the technologies they offer. There is no system to check their credentials or history. That leads to a wrong choice ? the company might either be a fraud (as a few months ago two European suppliers of an infrastructure company were arrested and jailed for supplying a fake product in Mumbai) or incompetent altogether. Such companies do not deliver.

The need: A system to check the credentials of every foreign company (and Indian too) entering India to sell ITS solutions.

Dr CSRK Prasad, Professor and Head, Transportation Division, Department of Civil Engineering at NIT, Warangal had strongly recommended three forked strategy for ITS in India at TrafficInfraTech Expo, 2012. He had said, ?We need to concentrate on three issues: National ITS Policy, The ITS Technology & Standardisation Monitoring Authority and R & D.? For the first option, he was of the opinion that MoRTH, MoUD, DIT, municipal corporations, urban development authorities and traffic police must play an important role.

In the next issue, we will be carrying information on ITS in the railway system. When asked, ?While there is a brouhaha over ITS for surface transport, ITS in the railway system largely remains neglected,? P K Sikdar opines: ?In recent years, the railway also has adopted ITS. Surely it can be more as in case of Metro. The Western world uses ITS for all modes of transport to the fullest extent?. So, we do have a long track to cover.

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