Managing traffic through Technology

Published : TechGig

In our latest Technology for People series, we narrate how IT is improving effective policing.

His sun-burnt face lit up at the sight of visitors. “Please have a seat,” he said before turning his attention to the array of computer screens in front of him. Basanna Bajanthri, a Bangalore traffic cop for four years, has not had it so relaxed. Till the other day, he was guarding busy traffic intersections, changing signals manually and chasing drunk drivers.

But things have changed for the better. Two months back, he was deputed to the Traffic Management Centre (TMC) — the technology nerve centre of Bangalore traffic police — to join a small team of policemen remotely managing the city’s traffic.

“We remotely monitor nearly 120 cameras put up at different junctions. When we see a violation at a signal, we zoom into the vehicle, capture images of its number plate and slap a fine on the registered owner of the vehicle,” explains Basanna. The record of the offence is stored in a central database maintained by the police and an owner who has been fined can check about his offence on the traffic website and pay the fine at a citizen service centre, online or at one of the designated police stations.

Vehicle owners can check pending fines on their vehicle by messaging a given number besides getting traffic updates on their mobile phones. Besides cameras at junctions, there are enforcement cameras at five locations across the city. If a vehicle is seen speeding, its picture is taken and a fine is sent to the owners registered address.

Technology support is not restricted to the management centre alone. Policemen on the ground are also equipped with BlackBerry phones and bluetooth printers — which are also linked to a central base. When a policeman observes a violation, he stops the vehicle, keys in the number and records the offence through the phone and checks for earlier violations.

Violators can pay a fine on the spot or later while the policeman can print a receipt and hand it over immediately. Besides making use of technology for better compliance, the police draw heavily on tech to manage traffic better.
Based on video analytics and tech-based surveys, the police has prepared a database which forms the basis of how long the green light will be switched on at each signal. Signals are connected to the TMC and monitored using a software.

If a policeman at TMC observes congestion at a signal, he can change the green timings accordingly and manage traffic better.
Nearly four years ago, when angalore traffic police introduced BlackBerry phones to improve enforcement, people had their share of doubts. Will they be able to handle technology?

Is it another publicity stunt? Proving the critics wrong, the department has improved enforcement and management of bustling Bangalore traffic by making technological interventions.

Despite growing number of vehicles, increasing construction work and addition of new areas within its jurisdiction, technology has helped in bringing down the number of accidents, improving compliance and managing traffic better. In 2007, before any of this technology was in place, the city’s police had booked nearly 1.4 million cases of traffic offence, which had risen to 3.3 million in 2010.

At the same time, the number of fatal accidents have gone down from 957 in 2007 to 816 in 2010. Number of non-fatal accidents have come down from 6,591 to 5,343. Sharp rise in the number of vehicles on Bangalore’s roads is a key reason for technology adoption, which is an enabler. There are nearly 40 lakh vehicles and every year, the number of vehicles is growing by 7- 8 %. Experts say the number of two-wheelers and cars are growing at 8.25 % and 12.5 %, year-on-year.

Another factor to adopt technology is the manpower crunch faced by the traffic police department — it has not added staff since 2007. Says traffic expert and chairman of Traffic Engineers & Safety Trainers (TEST), Professor MN Sreehari: “People say that the intelligent transport system, as it is called elsewhere, is very expensive. That is not the case. The system has come to existence because of human resource shortage.

In advanced countries, there are shortages and hence automation is required. This leaves no room for human error and is an unbiased system. We can also introduce artificial intelligence later on.”

This technology adoption programme, called B-TRAC, was kicked off in 2007 and is expected to cost Rs 350 crore. “We have set a target of reducing congestion by 30% in central areas, reducing accidents by 30% and improving parking management,” says Praveen Sood, Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic, who has been spearheading the B-TRAC project. Sood is an IPS cadre officer and an alumnus of IIT Delhi and IIM Bangalore.

The traffic management centres has different software and hardware components built by technology firms like MindTree, CMS Infosystems, Bharat Electronics, Robert Bosch, IBM and Cisco. Also, traffic density is updated onto maps from Google Earth so that a commuter can identify congested roads before hand.

“Traffic problem can’t be solved by technology alone. The infrastructure also has to be improved. However, we can use technology to improve management and compliance,” Sood added. The department is gearing up to set up nearly 400 signals which will be vehicle-actuated, networked, adaptive, controlled and monitored by the Traffic Management Centre.

Recently, the Union government has recognised the B-TRAC project as one where technology has been innovatively used in e-governance. The project, for which PriceWaterhouseCoopers was a consultant, has been catching the attention of police officials in other cities as well.

“Such models can be replicated in other cities as well. Some have also shown interest in but we are not ready to talk about them yet. Compared to other cities like New York and London, this a start. There is scope for much more. Closer integration of security and traffic is an area for improvement. There can be location based services delivered over the phone to commuters,” said Neel Ratan, executive director, e-Governance practice, PwC India.
Tech Aids Policing

Using simple IT solutions aid in reducing traffic violations and decongesting arterial roads

Technology used at signals/TMCs 

• Cameras placed at signals for traffic management and rule enforcement. A policeman at the traffic management hub observes these cameras placed at junctions

• If he sees a violation at a signal, he zooms into the vehicle’s number plate, and the software records the number. Then the software helps fixing the quanta of fine and the demand for fine goes to the owner’s registered address

• Record of violation stored in the traffic police database

• Fined vehicle owner can pay fine at BangaloreOne centres, through the traffic police website or at a traffic police station

• The vehicle owner can also check pending fine on his vehicle by messaging BTIS FINE <vehicle number> to 52225

• Vehicle owners get traffic updates on their mobile phones

• The police personnel at the monitoring hub sees the level of congestion in a road, adjusts the timing on the software linked to the signal which increases/decreases the time span between red, yellow and green

• Signal timings are worked out using historical traffic data and video analytics

Technology used on the field 

• Police personnel on the ground equipped with Black-Berrys and Bluetooth printers observes violation. Blackberrys are linked to a central database

• Stops the vehicle, punches in the number and records the offence through Blackberry

• Checks for previous records and imposes fine

• Violator pays fine on the spot or later through other channels

• The police personnel prints a receipt through Bluetooth printer and hands it over immediately


Author : Praveen Sood 

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