Friday , 13 December 2019

Seminars at the Expo They came, they discussed, they showed the way…

On the second day, experts discussed “Highway Traffic Safety and Management” at a packed hall. The seminar was chaired by Manoj Dave, Head – O&M (Roads), L&T.

While speaking on ‘Applications of ITS for Electronic Toll Collection’, Ravi Palekar, General Manager with National Highway Authority of India gave interesting information on the latest technologies in electronic toll collection (ETC) that would soon be introduced in India. ETC is the collection of toll electronically by using vehicle-to-roadside communication technologies with the transaction taking place automatically between the toll collection agency and the vehicle. Once the vehicle approaches the toll lane, the antenna senses the tag, the unique number of the vehicle stored in the tag, passes the information to the local database which sends it to the central location where the financial transaction takes place. This process will not require toll plazas or separate lanes for toll payment, said Palekar. Communication coming to the central clearing house from different toll plazas can then be faxed to the respective banks for the end of the reconciliation. The information can further be accessed by the road user through his account using the internet to know whether he needs to top up, or get information about, his balance. “While four kinds of technologies exist in the world on ETC, India has adopted the Radio Frequency Identification Tags on the recommendation of the committee set up with Nandan Nilenkani, chairman UIDI as the chairman,” he informed. Palekar also informed how the fraud and risk management of the system could be done through appropriate software. “When the vehicle is identified at toll plaza simultaneously, a sms can be sent to the tag owner/vehicle owner which can act as a double check to confirm that correct vehicle is identified and the correct amount has been deducted,” he elaborated.

Fredrick Balentovich, the CEO of Telegra spoke on ‘Complete ITS Platform – Advanced Traffic Management System and Tolling System Integration’. He opened his talk with a poignant statement, “Safety is pretty much in danger”. Terming tolling as the most common method for road infrastructure investment refund, he said there was an immediate need for some investment in important systems like ATMS which also provide different other benefits. He cited lack of expertise in knowing about these systems as the major problem. “Actually, this branch is relatively new and newest technologies are being deployed since the last few years in Europe and the US which secure the collective knowledge about these systems,” he opined. Since new technologies have to be deployed under different substances on highways and for tolling, lack of real integrators and tough deadlines hamper the process. This puts both the suppliers and investors under stress, often reducing the functionality of the system. Expertise and integration of the system with different disciplines, which are the most important principles to success of the system, require ATMS. Balentovich also insisted on constant upgrading of the system.

Rish Malhotra, Managing Director, IRD South Asia Pvt Ltd said axle load and gross vehicle weight (GVW) were the two most important factors in determining the toll of a particular vehicle. He was speaking on ‘Tolling Overweight Vehicles on Highways’. He said that the damage to “pavement or roads due to GVW overweight and axle overweight is exponential and can lead to big losses and damages”. Hence, weigh-in-motion sensors play a crucial role in detecting overweight vehicles. He said that as a system integrator, IRD South Asia was working on high speed weigh-in-motion to define threshold for overweight vehicles adding that a single load weigh-in-scale is a high end sensor, higher cost, but durable & long lasting as it lasts in the pavement for 25-30 years.

Malhotra gave extensive information on high speed and slow speed applications, weigh-in-motion sensors, weigh-in-stations and the various weigh-in-motion screening models and spoke about three options in the classification systems — Static weigh stations which have slower throughput and larger infrastructure investment; High-speed WIM sensors for mature markets, and using RFID tags. He also touched upon the option of extending toll plazas into sorter stations.

Atul Singh Parmar, Project Manager, Vadodara Bharuch Tollway Ltd, Larsen & Toubro, presented a case study on ‘O&M of Highways’. While discussing the complexities of the Vadodara Bharuch Tollway (L&T-VBTL) project that lies on the arm of the Golden Quadrilateral connecting Delhi and Mumbai, and three important industrial hubs including Bharuch, he said, “It involved three different police jurisdictions, 14 police stations, five Vidhan Sabha constituencies and two Lok Sabha constituencies. Managing them all and 24 separate electric connections posed major challenges. Engineering of the project involved 83.3kms of project length and total lane length of 547kms. ”

The toll booths of the L&T-VBTL project are connected through a tunnel, thus maintaining the safety of the tolling operations. “As most of the equipment run on electricity, we have created a four layered backup infrastructure for all our equipment so that its functioning isn’t hampered in any way. ” Photo sensor and timer based controls too have been used on the entire 26kms long stretch of the lighting system. He said strict safety procedures were of prime concern as while running an O&M project, all the activities have to be carried out without stopping the traffic. Multi layered ITS as well as manual auditing processes have been adopted so that in case of failure of one system, the other provides back-up. “A good exempt traffic control management system too has been adopted. It is integrated partially with the system but will be integrated entirely soon,” he said. CCTV surveillance, HTMS also has been adopted for maximum efficiency for L&T-VBTL.

While speaking on ‘Highway Project Challenges’, Venkata Subba Rao Chunduru, General Manager, GMR Highways said that tremendous amount of innovation was required in research and educational institutes, and concessionaires like his company were ready to come forward and fund research. Opining that a huge amount of opportunity in India existed for highway development, he added that the present scene was grim and could lead to chaos because a proper structure did not exist. Saying that the concessionaires faced many challenges and there was a need for a lot of integration in the bidding phases, he cautioned, “Otherwise, the PPP is largely at stake”. Highway development should not be seen as an isolated issue but as a part of the entire infrastructure process was his observation.

Chunduru also said that during the implementation stages they often realised that the government machinery did not really gear up to understand the details of the project leading to many gaps. He also stressed upon the dearth of resources, skilled manpower and material. Creating awareness among villagers who suddenly get exposed to highways passing through their villages and the initiation of an activity by the government to clarify all ambiguities in the latest amendments in legal documents for all stakeholders was important, he said. He also insisted on institutionalised performance monitoring system. “Unless we try to distinguish between a performing concessionaire and a non performing concessionaire, we will continue to have problems. ”

While speaking on ‘Impediments to Road Safety Audits in India’, Dr Nishi Mittal HoD (TES Division), Central Road Research Institute, stressed upon the need for getting road safety audits (RSAs) done before the beginning of a project. Since RSA is a relatively novel concept in India, not many stakeholders understand its importance, she said. “Quite often the concessionaires think that it isn’t like ‘some master is coming to check our design’ and they don’t take the issue seriously. ” She underlined the fact that RSAs must be made mandatory to be undertaken before the beginning of any new transport/traffic project and also on the importance of changing our mindset on the issue of road safety. (Dr Mittal’s views and suggestions on the issue can be read in an article she has exclusively written for this issue of TrafficInfraTech).

Atul Kumar, CGM (Technical), NHAI spoke on ‘Plans and Perspectives of Development of Highway’. Giving the break-up on the stretches of highways that come under the Central Government through NHAI and those that are under the jurisdiction of the state governments, he said that NHAI was responsible for 24,000kms of the total 71,000kms length of the highways. He emphasised on giving attention to the neglected issue of dust control in highway projects as it not only affected the traffic on the roads but also the health of the workers involved.

Drawing from a study undertaken by the NHAI, he said audits and collection of accident data every month, access management and mapping of Mechanical Fires Safety Equipment were necessary. He observed, “Our roads are deficient in design itself and even if we take care of all the other aspects, our deficient roads can still lead to accidents. The IRC codes are quite old and it takes time and a complicated process to get them revised. “Kumar informed about a circular issued a few months ago on guidelines to improve the roads, bus base, geometry of roads, separation, local traffic, signages, etc. “If we address all these important problems, we will be addressing the root cause of the problem,” he observed adding that the contracts too had been modified accordingly. A comprehensive manual has been prepared based on the study and put on the NHAI website. The NHAI has appointed auditors for about 5500kms to see concurrently what is happening on the roads with an aim to reduce accidents.

Urban Traffic Management & Safety

On the third day, a packed seminar hall witnessed some serious deliberations on the systems today and the requirements for the future for urban traffic management and safety. Primarily a session in which Traffic Police Heads of different cities enumerated the challenges of managing traffic in their cities with the use of latest technology and well thought out strategies, a presentation by a young IIT student from Kharagpur and a government transport department presentation added well to the discussions on strategies. The seminar was chaired by Dr P S Pasricha, former Director General of Police, Maharashtra and former Traffic Chief of Mumbai, who has written several books on traffic. He is, at present, Member of the State Security Commission of Maharashtra.

Dr Pasricha emphasised the fact that safety could not be measured on any physical state and observed that over dependence on oil adversely affected our economy. “Nearly 2. 5 billion vehicles struggle and consume about three trillion litres of fuel,” he said. He also rued the fact that good reports by experts on solutions to the traffic problems kept lying with the government and were seldom made use of. “I was the Chairman of National Road Safety for two years and submitted a report which was discussed in parliament but nothing came of it. ”

Against such a vociferous opening, the presentation by Satyendra Garg, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Delhi, found the right mood. He said, “The problems in Delhi are mainly two – the people of Delhi who are indisciplined and the traffic police which is mostly corrupt.” Such statements made sure that the seminar proved to be realistic and discussions, in-depth. Garg said that vehicular revolution saw the rise in the number of vehicles from five lakh in 1981 to 19 lakh in 1991 and 70 lakh registered vehicles in 2010 in Delhi. He said that with 6000 traffic policemen to manage the entire city, he had decided to play on the human psyche to enforce rules. So, he asked his staff to man all the 730 intersections in Delhi. “This not only created fear in the minds of the motorists since they weren’t used to seeing traffic cops at intersections but also brought down corruption. ” Emphasising on the need to increase fines, and strictly enforcing them, he also observed that technological upgradation was a must in this regard. He said that on a visit to Rome he was shocked to see that the city had no policeman on the road. “They have good cameras, ownership records, drivers’ records and everything is technologically managed. Nobody dares break the law and the city is managed well. And here, we are still struggling with the ITS tender which will cover one-third of Delhi – a 200 crore project financed by GOI. First tender failed as nobody came.

The second time, two out of three bidders were disqualified. We might have to go for another tender. Even then we might have a problem because we do not have ownership records. ” He noted, “Sometimes, it is fashionable to invest big money in technology without realising that we do not have the wherewithal of grassroot management to support it. ”

He said, “The infrastructure is grossly insufficient. And the demands on policemen are many but the city never learns. Vehicles have grown 14 times but roads have grown only twice since 1981. And since the city has only 10,000 authorised parking areas, it often leads to road rage.” He added that prosecution was not a deterrent because fines are insufficient, the possibility of getting caught is very less and of getting away – very high.” He ended on a thought provoking note: “You kill half a dozen people in a motor vehicle accident in India, and it is a bailable offence!”

With a strong presentation like that came another vociferous voice from Madhya Pradesh in the name of Purushottam Sharma, IGP (SCRB), Bhopal. He too spoke about insufficient infrastructure and said that he had made a proposal for introducing e-challans. He said that technology and four Es were very important – evaluation, engineering, education and enforcement (His views can be read in an interview with him in this issue).

Vivek Phansalkar, JCP (Traffic), Mumbai drove home the adversities of managing the traffic of a city with a density that is three times the normal density of any city in the world and the limitations on expansion as it is surrounded by Arabian Sea. He spoke about the use of various forms of technology that were in operation in Mumbai. Phansalkar made two significant points. He appealed to the manufacturers that instead of making a product and then selling it, they must first assess the needs of the users and then make the product. “We borrow beautiful pictures from abroad and transplant in our cities – we need to be careful what suits and applies to our city, our people, our culture, our volumes of people and their traffic behaviour. ”

He also said that often, the designs taken up by bodies like Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) for many areas and projects were faulty adding that he had impressed upon the government that while planning designs for traffic movements of flyovers, etc, traffic police must be included in the discussions too. “It has been accepted.” Pointing out many planning defects for past, on-going and soon-to-come-up projects, he said that while managing traffic, awareness was more important than punitive measures for which his department kept taking innovative measures.

To arrest constant digging at the same place and throwing the traffic in jeopardy he had proposed to MMRDA for a software package “so that we can tell the agencies when digging is happening at a place that if they too need to do any digging, they should do it simultaneously”. He rued the fact that in 2010, Mumbai traffic police made over 23 lakh challans and collected a fine of र24 crore but not a pie came to the traffic department. “We have proposed now that at least 50% of this collection should come to us so that we can look after our own needs and invest in better technology”.

While speaking on ‘ITS solutions for Safety and Management’, V Muralidharan, Associate Director and HoD, CIG, Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (CDAC), stressed upon meticulous integration of systems and multi-lingual support for the solutions provided. For the major parking problem that India faces, he highlighted the use of VMS at important junctions which could guide to parking lots. “Vacant bays must be shown through sms and internet and people should be able to locate and reserve their parking space before they actually reach a venue so that they are not stressed before reaching the venue. ” He also stressed on CCTV surveillance. “A five second video will be a foolproof evidence of a red light violation. We can have a database of all offences and collect information in the evening. ” Muralidharan also emphasised on a common database for the country in a prescribed form. Citing the impediment for an Automatic Registration Number Plate Software, he said that since India does not follow a unified pattern of number plates, it becomes very difficult to record the number plates with the help of the software. “It’s normally the private vehicles that violate – but can be regulated through the software. ” He said that instead of fixed time basis, the traffic signals must work on demand or vehicle actuated system. “Though it’s a costly affair, we must try that.”

In order to make ATC more effective, given the indiscipline on roads and heterogeneity of traffic, CDAC has developed (and patented) a control system at Kozhikode for heterogeneous traffic that doesn’t adhere to the usage of lanes. It has also designed a Wireless Traffic Control System that requires no digging of roads on a lane to install a controller system and is operated on solar power.

CDAC has also built a system to control brightness of light at night so that the drivers’ eyes don’t hurt. It has also come up with Rail Time Drastic Road Information Planner, and Personal Travel Information System. “Another project being done is Intelligent Traffic Adjustment where you can use RFID and wireless system to find out congestion of a route for studies etc,” he said.

Anil Chhikara, MLO, Transport Department, Delhi spoke on ‘ITS based Practices for City Traffic’. He said that the government had taken a lot of initiatives on computerisation of permits and software development. He insisted on the need to bring car and two-wheeler passengers to buses and autos or taxis, saying the latter was under-utilised. “Delhi has a 41% ridership of buses but 20 years ago, it was 60%. Metro and BRT cannot take the load of three or four kilometres as our public transport cannot reach the depth of residence.” He said the multi-dimensional transport movement of Delhi can be organised via ITS which will also improve the efficiency in a constrained system. “The notion that transport is an administrative job is now defunct. Technology has much wider role to play than administration for transport operation and development. The need of the day is to strengthen and augment feeder services,” he observed.

Anirban Dasgupta, a research scholar from IIT Kharagpur, made a presentation on ‘Development of a Product – Assessment of Allotment Levels in Human Drivers’ – a project sponsored by DID, New Delhi. He said that IIT Kharagpur was developing a product that would check the alertness of the driver to see if he has fallen asleep or is inattentive while driving. “Our hardware will inform the driver and warn the system and possibly, prevent accidents. We are researching algorithms to find alertness level.” The alertness of the driver would be measured on physiological signals which vary, facial expressions – tracking or locating the eye, and subjective analysis and work response with the vehicle. “We are working on image based methods so they don’t distract the driver,” he said.

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