All roads lead to India: driving public sector smart mobility

Changing age demographics and a need to improve road safety in the face of negative accident numbers throughout the country: India’s need for a mobility overhaul seems clear, but how will smart mobility and digital tools play central roles in that transformation?

The traffic congestion challenge

Congestion is a long-term issue in India, and throughout APAC, cities are seeing car ownership on the rise, meaning still more congestion. In India, according to a 2018 report, commuters in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore spend 1.5 times longer traveling a given distance during peak traffic compared to off-peak hours. This level of traffic congestion is estimated to cost India’s economy over $22bn per year.

There are environmental pressures at play, too, with cars being one of the main causes of pollution in urban centers. In congested cities, such as Delhi, Mumbai and the like, there is a direct correlation between the number of vehicles and high levels of air and noise pollution.

The public safety factor

WHO research finds that around 1.3 million people die in road accidents globally each year, with a further 20 to 50 million injuries and disabilities occurring as well. In India, the figure is staggeringly high: in the past decade, over one million Indians have lost their lives on the country’s roads, which are among the deadliest in the world. There is not just a human imperative to work to here, but also a commercial impact: according to the Ministry of road transport and highways, India’s economic loss from accidents amounts to around 3 percent of the country’s GDP, or around $8.2 billion every year.

In India, over 50 percent of road deaths are estimated to take place at traffic junctions, making them a major target for smart mobility transformation projects and digital solutions like smart junction management, autonomous vehicles and intelligent public transport systems. Improving the safety of junctions and crossings, and public transport systems in general, can help India negate the economic and social costs that come with road fatalities and casualties.

Video monitoring and analytics is another next-generation digital tool that can dramatically impact public safety on the roads. Historically, manual analysis of video data was too time and resource prohibitive and generally subject to too much human error. Intelligent video analytics can detect anomalies and send alerts about offenses or incidents in real time, ensure transport network uptime is improved and prevent accidents. Orange is currently working with the government of Gujarat to do just this on its “Safe and Secure Gujarat” initiative. It is one of India’s biggest smart city projects and will eventually deliver next-generation traffic management to the state’s 120 cities.

Customer-centric development

According to the United Nations, India’s citizens will increase in age on average in the coming years, with the United Nations forecasting that Indians aged 60 and older will double between 2015 and 2050, from 9 percent to 19 percent of the population.

This will place an added strain on India’s public transport, and mobility in general, something that has long been in need of transformation. Smart mobility schemes can be designed specifically to help these older citizens. Lots of older Indian citizens are not able to drive cars and are reliant on public transport; but at the same time, even using public transport in India can be a complicated thing.

Developing solutions that are affordable, convenient, safe and secure for India’s citizens is critical to driving acceptance and engagement from customers. This can be best achieved by revamping current transportation systems and using intelligent technologies to create smart and sustainable mobility solutions.

What is India doing about it?

India’s local governments are collaborating and coming up with new schemes to enhance smart mobility under the umbrella of India’s Smart City Mission. Pune will be home to India’s first Urban Mobility Lab, established to identify areas for development in Pune’s mobility system, including traffic and parking management, non-motorized transport, public transport, booking and payment and electric mobility.

These types of solutions could set benchmarks for public sector smart mobility across India and pave the way for other innovative mobility solutions in Indian cities. There are already a number of public/private partnerships (PPPs) underway, such as SUN Mobility’s Quick Interchange Charging Stations for two-wheeler and three-wheeler electric vehicles (EVs), Lithium Urban Technologies’ 300 electric taxis plus 50 electric buses, and Ridlr’s multi-modal Commute Ticketing app, which lets commuters access an end-to-end journey planner, advance ticket booking and cashless payments.

Another example is Mumbai’s single-ticketing system for integrating payments with a smart card, which will work across all four mass transport services (subway, buses, monorail and metro network) with the end goal being faster, more convenient commutes for over 1.5 million daily travelers.

Trains and buses also in the mix

Millions of Indians rely on trains and buses to get them around, particularly in densely-populated urban areas and cities. In Delhi, where close to four million people ride the Metro daily, the government has been committing to transformation. The city has been investing in driverless trains, and linking the Delhi Metro to all other public transport systems in the city is underway.

A couple of years ago, Delhi introduced cashless payment terminals on the Metro, all part of a plan to make public transport in Delhi easier to use. Delhi’s trains and Metro network could also benefit from video analytics, helping municipalities gather data from peak times and analyze crowds to find ways of making the customer experience more enjoyable.

A digital future, but work remains

Prime Minister Modi recently outlined his 7C Vision for the Future of Mobility in India, with the focus to be on common, connected, convenient, congestion-free, charged, clean and cutting-edge public sector smart mobility.

Digital solutions will be fundamental in enabling that smart mobility future for India, but they are not a silver bullet and require other advancements to help them do their job. India’s fundamental network infrastructure remains in need of overhaul, the roads and general facilities, themselves, must be brought up to standard: we need a solid foundation on which to build tomorrow’s digitally-connected transport future. With the right political will and the right infrastructure in place, India can move forward with its smart mobility transformation.

Public sector-led smart mobility initiatives can drive the transformation of urban transportation. Download the PwC report Life in the Fast Lane to find out how.

Bala Mahadevan
Bala Mahadevan is CEO, India, at Orange Business. His role incorporates leading Global Communications Solutions and Global Services in India, and he is responsible for designing and executing business strategy to drive business growth in India.
Bala holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India. He is an accomplished leader with a track record of key contributions in various leadership roles, encompassing business transformation, leading global businesses having multi-location, multi-faceted technology environments, setting up off-on shore development & support centers and more. His intense and varied experience in the IT services industry has cut across various service lines, verticals and local-global geographies for over 30 years.