‘Traffic congestion is a major urban challenge’

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Zero-Sum Ltd is a Japanese firm with expertise in ITS (Intelligent Traffic System) and has been the preferred development partner of key navigation service providers and automotive OEM’s. Chikara Kikuchi, Managing Director – Zero-Sum ITS told Sandeep Menezes that traffic congestion is mainly due to poorly planned traffic intersections, roads lack of pathways for pedestrians, poor incident detection and penalty enforcement for traffic violations.

 

Excerpts from the interview:

 

Chikara Kikuchi

Chikara Kikuchi

 

What are the major reasons for traffic congestion on Indian roads? How can traffic congestion be reduced?

 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s promise of building 100 ‘smart cities’ – eco-friendly cities which use innovative Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for efficient delivery of public services and infrastructure which when happens will make India one of the most desired countries in the world. Having said so, traffic congestion is a major urban challenge in the country today and being the world’s second most populated country does not help. The cities are not planned; there is no concept of lane driving, non-availability of real time traffic alerts – all of which leads to unproductivity and loss of revenue for the city.

 

There are multiple check-posts, toll tax and octroi collection points on roads which bring down the speed of the traffic, waste time and cause irritation to transporters. How can time wastage and traffic bottlenecks be reduced at such check-posts and toll collection points?

 

The government should bring about all toll tax and octroi collection points under one system, wherein all toll booths in a state are integrated and toll collection is done through RFID based sensor installed onto vehicles. The biggest challenge in this mechanism is making users aware and providing them access to purchase such integrated travel cards easily.

 

 

Do you feel inadequate & sub-standard quality road infrastructure is one of the main reasons for traffic congestion in India?

 

It definitely is one of the reason, but more importantly is poorly planned traffic intersection, roads lack of pathways for pedestrians, poor incident detection and penalty enforcement for traffic violations.

 

One major problem on Indian roads is mixing of traffic. Same road is used by high speed cars, trucks, two wheelers, tractors, animal driven carts, cyclists and even by animals. Comment.

 

Rightly pointed out, traffic in our cities is very heterogeneous with all kinds of vehicles and sometimes even animals sharing road space. Lane driving should be strongly enforced and better driving behaviour should be advocated through rewards such as lower insurance premium etc. for drivers with no violations and higher insurance for drivers with more violations.

 

Road safety is an almost alien subject across India. Going forward, do you feel more needs to be done to strengthen road safety mechanisms nationwide?

 

Yes we do. Most important is that drivers should learn how important it is to drive safe and that advocacy can only be done by the government. However technology can also play an important part in the promotion of road safety through the form of aggregating traffic information, road condition information, diversion information, incident detection and enforcement.

 

How can Intelligent Transport System assist in improving the current traffic problems facing Indian roads?

The ITS sector is still nascent in India. Even though various technologies have been successfully implemented in developed nations, various challenges exist in replicating similar systems in India. Currently there is a lack of definite guidelines and regulations of nationwide ITS architecture and framework in India. ITS systems cannot just be modelled on existing successful ITS solutions of other nations due to basic inherent driving behaviour and conditions in India. An ITS solution in India needs to be cost effective, easy to implement, have less human intervention due to unavailability of skilled personnel on the ground level of the traffic police and also should be adapted as per the local language of the populace. Most of the ITS solutions in the developed nations were setup at huge costs borne by city governments or local traffic Police. In India the high cost of ITS systems undermines its importance to local city governments.

 

How has been the response to solutions offered by Zero-Sum ITS in India? Tell us about the costs implications of utilizing such Intelligent Transport System in India?

 

It has just been a few days since our Pilot project launch in Ahmedabad and the response has been phenomenal. Users and media are continuously asking us on why are we not replicating this across the entire city and making this information available on mobile phones. We have been telling them that we will do so in the next phase of the project. We have received queries asking us about when we could do something for other cities as well. In our current business model, we do not pass on any costs to the Municipal Corporation, Traffic Police or any other civic agency. We have incorporated a self-sustainable business model wherein certain portion of our display boards are reserved for showing commercial advertisements and the revenue earned from the advertisements will be the source of project monetization.

 

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