Internet of Things: Champion of Road Safety, End of Traffic Woes

Most of us have been hearing and probably following concepts like smart cities, smart homes, smart gadgets, Internet of Everything, Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), etc. If you're not familiar with IoT or Machine-to-Machine and what it really means for a layman, please first go through this 2 minute read: Explaining IoT to a Layman.

 

Grave Situation

Internet of Things: Champion of Road Safety, End of Traffic Woes 

Accidents are increasing at an alarming rate across the world and especially in India. Around 4,80,652 road accidents took place in India in 2016 killing over 1.5L people and injuring almost c. 5L. There are various reasons ranging from bad road conditions, over speeding, poor street lighting, road rage, driving under influence of alcohol,  improper road designs and others. Two-wheelers account for 25% of total road crash deaths in India. India is on the top of list of countries by traffic-related death rates. The situation is becoming so serious that according to some stats there is one accident every minute.

 

Metros are literally competing with each other to become the accident capital of the world. It's fair to say I'm scared to take my car out, especially when I observe the style of driving, people recklessly switching lanes, autos driving in the wrong direction and sanctity of traffic signals being abused without much monitoring from the traffic police. Highways, even though expanding in number of lanes, are not becoming safer, with no proper signage, trucks flouting rules, motorists crossing speed limits and lane switching resulting in very dangerous driving environment. 

 

Now let us see how various technology-based solutions under the umbrella of IoT or M2M can help reduce the frequency of accidents or at least better manage emergencies during accidents.

 

Smart Helmets

 

For bikers, whether they ride a motorcycle or a bicycle, it is key to wear a helmet and safeguard onself against head injuries. But what if there is a "smart" helmet that also communicates with other drivers and vehicles. For example, a helmet with LED lights which are connected with the bike's handle through Bluetooth or some other low energy communication protocol, making it turn RED when breaks are applied. LED on the left or right side of the helmet blinks when the bicycle is making left or right turn. How about putting a little GPS connection between the smartphone and the helmet which can allow a biker to project the directions on the road.

 

Most importantly, the helmet will be connected to the smartphone and in case of an accident, through a connected sensor send a message to a relative or a family member configured inside the phone app.

 

Look at the basic smart helmet demonstration developed by 2 college kids, who are part of IoT-NCR open community, a crude solution which shows that at cost of INR 3000 one can build a prototype. At a larger scale this solution can be made more economical for the riders. Another interesting invention is that of an avid biker and an engineer who join hands to build an IoT device that ensures road safety. You can read their story here.

 

Connected Cars and Connected Highways

Internet of Things: Champion of Road Safety, End of Traffic Woes

Everyone these days talks about connected cars. As per research, almost 80% of cars coming in market from January 2018 onwards would have an embedded module which would allow the vehicle to be connected with the owner and as well with the manufacturer.

 

Once your vehicle is linked to the internet and to you through a mobile app, there can be variety of information flowing both ways, which can significantly help reduce and manage road accidents. One basic use case is informing your near and dear ones in case your cars meets with an accident.

 

But for a moment think about how 'connected cars' and 'connected highways' can help prevent or minimize accidents. Heavy fog caused a 50 car pile up on Yamuna Expressway in January 2016. A 'connected highway' and car could have sensed the congestion/accident when the first two cars bumped into each other and immediately informed through a central server to all vehicles on the highway about the approximate accident location. This is possible if all cars have an RFID chip that is read by RFID reader at the toll gate. The system then knows which car entered the highway and adds them to notification database, and removes it from the system when the car leaves the highway through an exit or the last toll. Cameras on light poles or the RFID on the car, which met with an accident can communicate to the backend informing its status, thereby triggering through the central server, a message regarding a possible accident or a slowdown.

 

Another feature I can think of is Auto lock built into the car to avoid over speeding wherein if the speed crosses 100 KM on a 60 KM lane, the car will gradually slow down the first time, if it goes over again then it will slow down and send a warning message to the driver the second time and third time this violation can result into a car being locked down and message sent to the nearest patrolling station or cops to handle the situation manually. TCS presented the 'connected car' concept, which highlights some of these important points.

 

Smart Traffic Management


Internet of Things: Champion of Road Safety, End of Traffic Woes

With the nature of 'connected cars' and ''connected highways or other solutions such as smart traffic management are needed, which manage traffic conditions and blockages to minimise bottlenecks. For example how about traffic lights dynamically changing the timing of RED/GREEN/YELLOW based on the traffic in the connecting lanes.

 

Also these solutions can help the patrolling policemen catch violators easily and also charge them a penalty through an automated/integrated payments system. This reduces scope for bribery rampant in India. Delhi government during the odd-even rule in New Delhi collected huge amount of fines, and were also able to reduce traffic on road - how about a technology-based solution that allows them to catch offenders and collect fined in an automated manner?

 

Conclusion

 

I see immense potential in IoT and M2M based solutions to help cities and governments reduce accident rates and more importantly save lives of end consumers. $11 billion of fuel is wasted in extra fuel consumption due to traffic jams and I don’t know how to quantify the monetary value of time that it is saved for end consumers and enhanced productivity.

 

This article was originally published here.