The mobility ecosystem has transformed to become a technology-driven business. Companies that provide transportation services are now exploring various smart solution models, ranging from the individual level to trip, vehicle and city levels. The initiatives taken by public and private entities to aggregate data at all these levels and make it accessible are indispensable for creating efficient services.
The shift towards smart mobility is triggered by the disruptive trends of rapid urbanisation, environmental changes, a shared economy and changing consumer needs, among others. It is supported by the application of technologies such as automatic train supervision, signalling and train control systems, and the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs), smart bus stops and renewable energy. To further strengthen this, integrated digital platforms across all modes of transportation, public or private, are also being adopted through mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) by various metro corporations in India.
In Indian cities, consumer demand has been shifting from provider-driven options to a consumer-driven market, with new service delivery models and providers emerging. This trend is characterised by the shift from a single provider to agglomerations and unlimited providers’ with the transportation frequency moving from a fixed time schedule to on-demand delivery. MaaS is now leveraged in end-to-end trip planning, booking, electronic ticketing and payment services. In April 2023, in a significant leap towards MaaS, the Kanpur metro launched the National Common Mobility Card.
Rapido, a mobile-based application for booking two-wheelers, offers last-mile connectivity services to Hyderabad metro commuters. Motovolt Mobility Private Limited, which had previously launched its first fleet of smart e-cycles, plans to expand across India with an omni-channel go-to-market plan.
The modernisation of signaling systems is being undertaken through smart solutions. In March 2023, Hitachi Rail Limited secured a contract worth approximately $200 million for the deployment of autonomous digital signalling in Phase II of the Chennai Metro Rail Project. In the following month, ETO Motors Private Limited launched 45 electric L5 three-wheelers with women driver partners at the Kalkaji metro station, New Delhi. Thunderbox, ETO’s EV charging solution, has also been set up at the same station and can simultaneously charge up to 30 vehicles.
Technologies such as internet of things and big data have also found applications in metro projects, with the introduction of devices and sensors along tracks and inside stations. These technologies are helping metro rail companies in managing and monitoring video surveillance data feeds, turnstile entrance access, X-ray baggage scanners, door metal frame detectors, etc.
Furthermore, smart bus stops and depots are expanding their footprint in mobility services. Kolkata’s New Town area has set significant milestones in this regard. Being Wi-Fi-enabled, it is further augmenting its existing smart bus stop locations. Temporary bus stops are being transformed into smart stops, fitted with modern designs and commuter-friendly amenities such as electronic display boards of bus timings. Warangal will soon have 121 smart bus stops, similar to those in Hyderabad, as a part of the Smart Cities Mission. These modern stops will also feature digital displays with information on routes, bus numbers, schedules, QR codes, surveillance cameras, etc.
As of July 2023, Infinova, in collaboration with Larsen & Toubro Limited, has implemented industrial-grade surveillance cameras at Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited for its stations and depots. Infinova has supplied the VT210 series, one of its most reliable fixed cameras, for the Bangalore Metro. The VT210 is equipped with features such as reliable intelligent analysis, wire cross identification, territorial intrusion detection, and video anomaly detection.
The adoption of intelligent transportation systems is the need of the hour to improve traffic congestion and reduce carbon emissions. Additionally, the government is leaning towards future-forward technology tools such as artificial intelligence (AI), 5G internet connectivity and cloud engineering. As of June 2023, Airtel’s 5G connectivity will be available to customers taking the Kerala water metro route between the High Court-Vypin terminal and the Vytila-Kakkanad terminal in Kochi.
Smart mobility has evolved through different stages, from level one consisting of ride hailing, ride sharing and car sharing to level two with multimodal integration, full mobility ecosystems and integrated business models. These advancements have further led to fractional ownership models, autonomous vehicles and blockchain integration.
The application of MaaS has the potential to increase the utilisation of public transportation while offering an enhanced customer experience through the processing of real-time passenger information. Additionally, by leveraging technology, data analytics skills and transport management models, smart solutions have the potential to make efficient and sustainable mobility mainstream.