Over the past few years, the central government has provided a much-needed thrust to the adoption of technology solutions, especially intelligent transportation systems (ITS), for traffic management. ITS solutions form one of the key reform components in central schemes such as the Smart Cities Mission and the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT). Further, the centre has also adopted several ITS initiatives to enable smarter intra- and intercity mobility. These include electronic toll collection (ETC) systems such as FASTags, a highway advisory system (HAS) and the collection of geospatial satellite data for traffic analysis.
The use of technology-based solutions is a key focus area for cities competing for selection under the Smart Cities Mission. The parameters considered while evaluating these cities include the level of adoption of technology in governance and the provision of public services such as transportation. In the urban transport domain, significant emphasis has been laid on transit-oriented development, smart mobility and the use of ITS. Cities have proposed several ITS solutions under the mission. These include traffic management systems, personal information systems, the issue of payment and penalty cards, smart parking, etc. In addition, the development of efficient urban transportation systems is also an important component of AMRUT.
Roads and highways
At the same time, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) and the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) have also adopted several ITS-based solutions for toll collection. For instance, ETC through FASTag is on the rise. This enables the automatic deduction of toll charges and allows vehicles to pass through toll plazas without halting for cash transactions. As of November 2016, 347 toll plazas across the country had installed ETC systems. Further, it is estimated that till December 2016, 178,266 FASTags had been sold.
NHAI has partnered with several banking institutions such as ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Punjab National Bank, the State Bank of India and IDFC Bank to sell e-toll tags and provide tag recharge options. The government has also roped in private players such as Paytm to expand the product’s reach.
Meanwhile, NHAI is in the process of introducing advanced toll management systems on national highways using automatic traffic and vehicle counters and classifiers, CCTV surveillance, weigh-in-motion equipment and static weighbridges. This is expected to improve vehicular flows as well as transfer real-time traffic data to road operators. This data can be utilised for providing commuters with vital information about traffic on national highways and expressways, as well as user fee rates at various toll plazas. To provide this information, the government has launched an integrated web portal – the national highways toll information system (www.nhtis.org). The GIS-enabled portal also facilitates the search for toll booths on the national map.
Another key ITS-based initiative undertaken by the government is the launch of HAS, which is being implemented in a phased manner. The project is aimed at gathering real-time information on highways from concessionaires, patrol vehicles, toll plazas and traffic marshals. The information thus collected is transmitted to the HAS control centre for data processing and analysis. In March 2016, Phase I of the project was undertaken to install HAS on the Delhi-Jaipur highway. The MoRTH, in collaboration with All India Radio (AIR), plans to use the data to broadcast live traffic updates and safety information to commuters. About 22 information bulletins are expected to be issued every day on AIR’s FM radio stations in Delhi, Alwar and Jai-pur. Phases II and III of the HAS project will involve the augmentation of the broadcasting infrastructure and digitisation of alerts.
Besides, NHAI has also signed an MoU with the National Remote Sensing Centre under the Indian Space Research Organisation and the North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR), under which NHAI will use spatial technology to monitor and manage national highways. NECTAR uses unmanned aerial vehicles for acquiring aerial images for infrastructure planning. The use of satellite data and geospatial technology will be imperative in providing inputs for highway and infrastructure projects.
While ITS-based solutions are increasingly gaining traction in the infrastructure domain, most of the impetus has been due to government initiatives. Going forward, uptake of ITS projects is expected under the Smart Cities Mission and AMRUT. In addition, key initiatives in the road sector will also lead to increased ITS deployment. If the focus on ITS is sustained, it could translate into significant opportunities for technology players and equipment providers.