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Tuesday , 26 October 2021

Leveraging ICT for Road Safety

There is an inter-ministerial initiative being planned by the Central Government to enhance safety on the roads, primarily by leveraging the existing information communication technology framework.

One of the main problems at present with road transportation in India is that transporters or users do not have any data on road safety for the stretch of the road that is of interest to them. The accident prevention methods are not leveraging the information communication technologies which is already available in the form of cellular phone networks, radio channels, CCTV and others.

When a person witnesses an accident and wants to help, he is confused. There are maybe 7-8 vehicles that stop suddenly when they see the accident and all of them try to see to which hospital they have to take the victim to.

Any new technology or solution takes time to be inducted. Due to this, by the time the tendering process is finished and the technology is acquired, it becomes already obsolete. So there is a big problem when a new technology has to be introduced. To solve this problem, the Prime Minister has taken an initiative and he is personally setting up an inter-ministerial group. The Ministry of Road Transport and Highway is the nodal ministry for this and support has been given by the Finance, Health and several other ministries.

The idea is to leverage the existing and growing ICT infrastructure in the country. For example, the government statistics say that more than 80% of the people who are vehicle owners have mobile phones. Many city roads are under CCTV camera surveillance. All toll plazas have CCTV cameras and vehicle records of the vehicles passing through them. All the trauma centers and hospitals have internet and many of the ambulances are also connected with the ICT devices. So now the question is how to how to integrate all these different ICT facilities. This becomes easy if we use crowd sourcing on a regular basis. Crowd sourcing uses information from the general public to execute projects. For example, the person who is staying in a particular area knows quite well which is the trauma center easily accessible in that area, This is important since often, especially during peak traffic hours, the shortest route in terms of road distance to a trauma centre may not be the fastest route in case of accidents. Getting this information about the nearest trauma centre and the route to the centre from some members of the local populace would help in this case, which would also lead to recognition of the participating members of the public.

This project will be implemented within existing structures: the state government and the hospitals are under the Ministry of Health, the Commissioner of Road Safety is under the Transport Ministry and the PWD maintains the dark spots. All these existing structures are going to be used in this to create a free form modular solution. The aim is to develop a solution suited for developing countries.

There are two aspects to road safety: one is the ex-ante, that is to prevent the accidents and the other is ex-post or post event, after the accident. The first thing that is being looked up under the project is to create a navigational road safety map which can be used in a manner similar to Google or Apple maps or navigational software such as MapMyIndia which enables to see live traffic conditions. Similarly, based on user inputs on accident sites the live data is being incorporated into a road safety map and alerts via cell-phone and radio about any accident which has happened on that road will be given. There will be dynamic and intelligent signage. The signage today is something that the drivers see and react to. You see a sign which says that there is a sharp right turn or it says that wear your seat belt and you are supposed to react to it. Intelligent signage, on the other hand would know that a particular lane has got obstruction ahead and it would inform all the traffic to change the lane. The signage would communicate with the drivers or with the vehicles via the on-board ICT. The role of Analytics in this is to continue to increase the data collection and unitize the data for better planning. This data is created over a number of days and gives a factual picture of the road, areas where there are blind spots, accident-prone spots etc. This can be used by PWD or the highway concessionaire and others to rectify the problems besides making drivers aware of the road situation.

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