Rapid urbanisation and an increase in urban habitations have led to mounting stress on city infrastructure. Addressing mobility issues and traffic bottlenecks has become one of the priority areas for sustaining urban growth. In light of this, the government has started deploying information and communication technology (ICT)-backed real-time systems for efficient management and monitoring of transport systems. Further, one of the key components of the smart mobility segment under the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is the deployment of intelligent traffic management systems (ITMS). These initiatives allow authorities to regulate and manage traffic in a systematic manner.
Acclaimed as the country’s first smart expressway, the Eastern Peripheral Expressway deploys cutting-edge technology to provide real-time information about traffic conditions, weather conditions, pollution levels, etc., to users. The key technological solutions deployed are cameras at 1 km intervals to detect traffic violations, a video detection system to spot accidents or traffic jams, an automatic ticket dispensing system showing vehicle numbers, and environmental observation systems, among others.
In order to ensure the seamless movement of traffic through toll plazas, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways made the implementation of FASTags mandatory for all vehicles in December 2019. The ministry has also launched the National Electronic Toll Collection initiative to provide for collection of user fees through FASTag, using radio frequency identification technology, hence reducing physical contact. As of December 2019, 523 toll plazas of the National Highways Authority of India had been equipped with electronic toll collection systems. The government has mandated that three-fourths of the lanes at toll plazas be FASTag enabled.
Another initiative taken by the government is the launch of highway advisory services (HAS). Being implemented in a phased manner, HAS was launched to provide real-time information and advisories to commuters travelling on highways. In March 2016, Phase I of the project was undertaken to deploy HAS on the Delhi-Jaipur highway on a pilot basis. In subsequent phases, the MoRTH has plans to augment the broadcast infrastructure, install sensors to gather additional real-time information, and undertake third-party audits, among others. Further, most of the cities selected under the SCM have adopted ITMS as one of their focus areas. A plethora of smart solutions such as a central command centre; CCTV cameras at junctions, main roads and significant areas; and traffic sensors on major roads and junctions to procure real-time data on traffic volumes and conditions have been included under the purview of ITMSs.
The ITMS in Kanpur is a centralised traffic control and surveillance system to ensure hassle-free movement of people and vehicles. It enables the city administration to manage, control and discipline traffic through strict enforcement of traffic rules and regulations by issuance of e-challans. The ITMS is also supported by a public address (PA) system and emergency call boxes installed at important junctions. In Phase I of the project, CCTV cameras and the PA system are being installed at 10 intersections, of which five are currently operational. Similarly, the Lucknow ITMS is connected to a command and control centre and consists of CCTV cameras, traffic controllers and surveillance poles. It has an adaptive traffic control system, a red light violation system, a speed violation detection system and a traffic surveillance system. The ITMS generates warning messages and sends them directly to traffic violators.
Commissioned in 2017, the Ahmedabad ITMS has deployed internet of things and big data analytics for regulation of traffic. The key components of the system are an automated fare collection system, an automatic vehicle location system, a passenger information system, a vehicle planning schedule and despatch system, and a depot management system. It has not only made bus services in the city more convenient but has also enabled the use of analytical tools at all levels of decision-making. The Nagpur ITMS has also deployed artificial intelligence-powered solutions such as automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) and red light violation detection (RLVD) systems to regulate traffic movement. The ANPR and RLVD systems have been deployed across 120 traffic junctions in the city, to track and record licence plates of all types of vehicles, as well as detect red light or stop line violations at intersections. In conjunction, nearly 1,300 cameras have been deployed to monitor vehicle movement and detect suspicious vehicles. For catching violations, integrated e-challan management software has been assimilated with the regional transport office’s database to retrieve the details of the (violating) vehicles, after which e-challans can be issued. The e-challan software also maintains a record of all payments, both received and pending. The solution provides the police with a view of the city’s traffic junctions and roads from the command and control centre.
The road ahead
With a strong impetus from the government, ICT-based solutions for traffic management have gained traction. As traffic densities keep increasing, the penetration of ITMSs is bound to increase. These systems will eventually facilitate ease of travel for commuters and enable traffic authorities to manage traffic in a systematic manner. If the focus on ITS is sustained, it could result in significant opportunities for technology and equipment providers.