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Saturday , 25 June 2022

Need to enforce right specifications

Bovin Kumar, Chief Operating Officer, Cube Highways and Transportation Assets Advisors (P) Ltd

Since the very first VMS installation at New Jersey Turnpike, VMS technology has upgraded many times over time from neon tubes to filament bulbs and now LEDs are the core components of today’s VMS sign. In India, the VMSs was introduced in early 2000. In earlier days VMS was only able to show two or three messages selectively but with the advancement, in cost-effective and more efficient semiconductors today’s VMSs are very agile and flexible to address infinite use cases. Now a days fully autonomous solar VMSs are also coming in trend to reduce operation cost and to increase up-time of ATMS system.

How is VMS used in India?

In the context of the highway sector, VMS is the only way of communication between the road managing authorities to the end-user of road infrastructure the motorist. VMSs are not just the glittery signs to elevate the project aesthetics but they have a special purpose of conveying information relating to road conditions and traffic situations to the motorist. Such information may create a difference of life and death for the fast-moving vehicles. But unfortunately, in our country in most cases, VMSs are not being used to their full potential to sort all the above purposes, and there are many contributing reasons just as wrong equipment selection, lack of operational knowledge to the onsite staff, and uptime issues. However, in recent years industry has become more aware and serious thanks to the ministry’s pledge or road to safety drives. But still there is a long way to go.

There is a serious need to enforce the right specifications if we wish to achieve the goal to have international standard roads by 2024.

Pre investigation and proper planning can increase the effectiveness/efficiency of any tool or technology and VMS is no exception. For example, a VMS on a road turn might have different visual properties requirements than a straight road and the right choice may increase the legitimacy by multiple folds. A VMS just before a turn warning to reduce speed can save many lives on such hotspots. In the same way, message composition plays an equally important role to achieve or lose the motive. For example, a crisp and short message is more effective than the long one. Here is an example to explain the difference.

As we can see just the right choice of vocabulary, composition and crisp graphics can make huge difference. And for a vehicle moving at 120kmph difference of 2 to 6 second does matter. We can’t engage the driver for that long time. The letter size and font style also plays a very important role to maintain legitimacy of the equipment. There is another misconception when it comes to the choice of VMS especially for highway segment. Many people believe a colourful and full of complex graphics VMS is better than the monochrome VMS sign. But a VMS with simple and less complicated format can convey same message in less time and on fast moving road even a difference of millisecond can pivot the situation. In all the developed countries any moving message content or videos are strictly prohibited to be played on highway VMS; as such content can distract the driver and may lead to an accident. So strict usage guidelines are much required when it comes to the usage of VMS. There is also a long list of Do’s and don’ts in VMS message selection which we strictly enforce throughout or projects.

Unfortunately, here is a huge gap in our industry. We don’t find much work done in that segment, usually we refer international studies from developed nations.

Technically Speaking

VMSs as per ATMS policy matter-Technical (214/2016) are envisaged in three types:

  1. Full VMS (5000mm*1800mm)
  2. Compact VMS (2400mm*1500mm)
  3. Portable VMS (1650mm*1000mm)

There are some very prominent and essential features we strictly follow while procurement for VMS equipment as below:

  1. EN12966 certified equipment.
  2. LED error detection (very essential to maintain legibility of VMS) i.e. display line failure
  3. Careful viewing angle selection (between 23 to 30 degree)
  4. All aluminium casing (for longevity of equipment)
  5. Combination of graphics and Text capability
  6. Power efficient VMS
  7. Processor PCB failure
  8. Incoming data reception/communication error detection
  9. Temperature within the enclosure information
  10. We also prefer to avoid any Chinese components in our VMS

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