Indian cities came in at rank 2, 6, 8, and 16 on the most recent World Traffic Index. How did other nations solve this problem and what will it take for us to do so too? Sitting through traffic is among the least pleasant things we spend so much of our time doing. And some cities have it so much worse than others. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam in Mumbai, Bengaluru or Delhi, you’re on one of the world’s 10 most-choked roads, according to the latest traffic index report.
The pandemic did temporarily ease the gridlock in 2020. Of the 400 cities surveyed, 387 experienced a significant decrease (an average of 21%) in their overall congestion. By contrast, only 13 cities saw their traffic jams increase.
The problem isn’t new, and the real problem is that the solutions aren’t new either. Ironic, isn’t it?
One can blame city planners for not making enough roads and should be asked to plan more road space in a city. But even with more roads, the infrastructure will be unable to keep pace with the growing number of cars. India’s road network has grown by about 30% over the past decade, whereas vehicle registrations have risen by almost three times. In January 2019 alone, at least a million-and-half (1,607,315) vehicles were bought and registered across the country — an average of 51,000 new vehicles a day.
One might also debate that congestion is only a symptom of a larger problem of misplaced priorities when it comes to urban planning and mobility. Many belive that the government continues to support the construction of urban highways and flyovers instead of investing in high-quality public transport, walkways and cycling lanes, and incentivising people who shift to these modes.
As a student trying to pursue my education in computer science, I believe that the solution is possible with IT. My first step would be to partner the governments with automobile brands to install a system in cars that urges vehicles to voluntarily observe speed limits.
Secondly, optical beacons can be installed in front of traffic signals all across cities. This can be used to collect data, analyse it to understand traffic trends. This information can be sent to the nearby traffic police control centre, which can automatically adjust the signal.
For example, if a group of cars get stuck behind a bus, it creates a jam as cars have a different speed limit than the bus. This way, many will get stuck at a red light. Such a situation can be detected by the beacon, which will relay the information to the traffic center, which can keep the light green for a few more seconds so that all vehicles behind the bus can pass the light in one go and ease the traffic.
Drivers should also be able to tap into the device so that they can remain informed about the most optimal speed to avoid red lights. I believe this is the most cost-effective way to solve the traffic problem in our country. The future depends on aspiring IT professionals.