Why Smart Cities Need Smart Mobility

Migration to urban centers of economic activity is a global phenomenon, with 53% of the world’s population already living in urban areas, by the year 2050, the number is already expected to reach 67%. Studies conducted so far tell us that most cities are ill-equipped when it comes to coping with the mobility/transportation challenges that lie ahead, in the race to create ‘smart cities.’ Since mobility epitomizes the city life, smart cities need to make mobility smarter, more efficient, green and reliable.

Why India Needs Smart Mobility

As cities grow and expand, so will the urban transportation systems such as increased traffic, congestion, road safety, overcrowded road network, substandard traffic management, poor road conditions, insufficient public transport capacity, few modal options (pedestrian walkways included) that are some of the major hurdles towards the vision of smart mobility. Among cities, Delhi is one of the worst with at least four people dying every day in road accidents. In 2016, there were 1,548 fatal accidents in the national capital, which led to 642 pedestrian deaths.

Approximately 50% people in Indian cities walk or cycle. Yet the country’s roads are notoriously unsafe with an annual average of about 1.4 lakh traffic accident deaths. Moreover, due to issues with last mile connectivity, recent studies conducted in Delhi, showed that for certain areas commuting by personal vehicles was much more economical and time-saving than commuting via Delhi Metro.

Apart from this, the lack of integrated transportation plans, coupled with under recovery and poor asset management by transport operators, creates a huge demand-supply gap.

The major challenges that currently plague the urban mobility sector are:

  • Lack of an efficient/adequate public transport system and related infrastructural provisions, which have resulted in the decline of modal share.

  • Last mile connectivity is a major issue faced by cities, thus areas where public transport systems are not a possibility, other modes of transport like e-rickshaws, bicycles, public bike-sharing schemes etc., merit consideration.

  • Slow adaptation of modern technology, reliability/punctuality of transport services, idling of vehicles at intersections etc. that can be tackled via application of technological interventions.

  • Change in technology (going hybrid/electric from petrol/diesel), the need for improving its cost-effectiveness, as well technical know-how measures.

  • Developing traffic infrastructure and management processes for smart cities, ensuring institutional support, financial viability etc.

Vision for the Future:

Digital revolution is now revamping the concept of mobility, with smart mobility services like booking of public transport tickets, intelligent streets, fare collection, next-generation vehicles etc. becoming mainstream concepts. The digital age is focusing on empowering users and making user choices the definition of operational parameters.

  • Government initiatives like FAME (Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid and) Electric Vehicles) and Solar City Programme have put forth a much-needed impetus, towards reduced dependency on non-renewable energy sources.

  • Interconnected multimodal transportation, that can facilitate seamless journeys based on demand responsiveness and the monitoring of systems and physical asset performance.

  • Employment of advanced public transportation technologies such as Advanced Communications Systems (ACS), Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) Systems, In-Vehicle Diagnostic Systems, Automatic Passenger Counter Systems, Real-time fleet management systems etc.

  • The development and promotion of non-motorized transport (NMT) and further development of infrastructure in that respect.

  • Using ICT to develop ITS, that include, intelligent parking systems, Urban Traffic Control (UTC), Variable Message Signs (VMS), video surveillance systems, integrated systems for Mobility Management, Traffic Data Collection Systems etc. that can assist in safety measures, both in terms of security as well as driver assistance.

Mobility being a cornerstone for the measuring of quality of life for a city, India needs a well-balanced focus on both improving and extending existing infrastructure as well as leveraging smart technology solutions. In fact, experts estimate that India could save up to 64% energy by the year 2030, if we shift to shared electric mobility and a drop of almost 156 million MTOE (millions tonnes of oil equivalent) in the consumption of diesel and petrol. While there remains a lot to be done, the government’s ongoing utilization of high tech solutions like, in-vehicle technologies comprising of speed governors, GPS, CCTV cameras, ITS technologies etc., will not only enhance security/safety and ease of commuting for the citizens, but also give a boost to the growing smart mobility sector in the country.

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Author: Sujit Patheja, Head – Business Development, Smart Infrastructure

Sujit Patheja heads Business Development for the Smart Infrastructure practice at ITL. His responsibilities include defining strategy, building brand and driving sales targets in the Smart city/Infrastructure space. In his 3.5 years stint at ITL, he has led many strategic initiatives and delivered success across industries and geographies. Before joining ITL, he spent 6 years at Infosys spearheading sales across Manufacturing, Government, Energy and Utilities verticals. Sujit is a post graduate with a MBA degree in International Business.
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