India is known to have one of the highest numbers of death in road accidents in the world. Despite only having just 1% of the world’s vehicles, the South Asian country accounts for almost 10% of the global death of road crash deaths worldwide , where most victims are pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists.
Speeding is a major contributing factor, and location-powered safety innovation could help turn this around.
Flouting Traffic Rules – ‘Everyone Does It’
Drivers in India are notorious for not following driving rules. Be it skipping the red light or talking on the phone while driving, flouting traffic rules on the road is a common behaviour. According to a survey conducted by Ford India, most drivers admitted to multitasking while driving and stopping abruptly on the road; those with driving licence also feigned ignorance of basic traffic rules .
Such worrisome driving behaviours seem to be fuelled by low traffic violation fines and penalties. For example, wearing of seatbelts have become mandatory for all passengers in a car and the fine for not doing so is INR 1,000.
Poorly maintained roads and defective road construction have also been responsible for road accidents in the country. Between 2016 and 2020, potholes alone have resulted in 2,600 fatalities annually and in 2020 almost 6,000 road accidents in India were due to potholes .
While it may be hard to encourage drivers to change their behaviours overnight and we cannot control regulation, there are still things we can do to improve road and traffic safety in India. Technology can help us understand where the risks are and act to mitigate them.
Managing The Need For Speed With Location Technology
Connected vehicles, sensors, mobile data, and other data sources can tell us a lot about what is happening on the roads. These vehicles can provide drivers with advanced turn-by-turn navigation that provides precise lane information to drivers – delivered via sensors from cars and shared with other road users using location technology, passengers, and surrounding road users with a much safer and more convenient experience.
The potential for collaboration between traffic authorities, traffic management providers, map and location data providers and automotive OEMs to make roads safer is huge.
For instance, Zoomcar , the largest peer-to-peer (P2P) car sharing marketplace covering emerging markets, is leveraging its connected car-sharing fleet in India to obtain real-time and historic data. This allows Zoomcar to create a “driver score'.
By obtaining vehicle and engine speed, acceleration, brake, battery and tyre conditions, and other data such as weather and traffic congestion, Zoomcar measures the performance of the drivers behind the wheel. The better a person drives, the higher the score and vice versa. This incentivises drivers to make safer, driving decisions.
To leverage these data inputs in real-time, Zoomcar relies on location data and services from HERE Technologies to create more efficient real-time interventions with the connected drivers using their fleet.
As delays caused by traffic congestion and accidents are expensive, time consuming and, until now, difficult to predict, real-time or live traffic data can help drivers outsmart traffic and find faster, safer routes. For example, HERE Technologies most recently announced a new cloud-based service called HERE Road Alerts . This new service fuses rich vehicle sensor data from millions of cars on the road with traffic incident data to provide real-time hazard warnings so drivers have accurate and timely information about hazards on the road ahead to make better and safer driving decisions.
Slowing Down To Save Lives
According to the United Nations (UN), artificial intelligence can help halve road deaths by 2030 . Features such as lane-keeping assist and pedestrian automatic braking can help save lives. In the European Union, for instance, Intelligent Speed Assistant (ISA), a vehicle safety feature that helps drivers stay within the current speed limit, is mandatory on all new-model cars, vans, trucks and buses.
In India, while the use of AI to prevent road traffic accidents is still in nascent stage, it is promising to see that efforts have been put in by the government to achieve the nation’s aim of halving road accident deaths by 2024.
An example is the guidelines for policymakers on helmet use and pedestrian safety to help curb the global scourge of road traffic deaths and injuries . The guidelines were co-written by the World Health Organisation and experts from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) to build safe mobility systems, especially in developing countries where crash fatalities often involve two and three-wheelers.
India has also achieved exemplary results when it comes to demonstrating that road safety is a shared responsibility. Back in 2014, India’s top selling cars would fail important UN safety tests, but this has significantly improved and all new cars in India now have regulations for impacts and pedestrian protection that meet the global UN standards .
Achieving Better Road Safety In India
When it comes improving road safety, location technology has the power to provide access to various data sources which traffic authorities, traffic management providers, automotive OEMs can combine with their existing data or platform to monitor driver’s behaviours.
For automotive companies, location technology can help them build mobile applications for drivers, which can help with safety alerts and traffic-aware navigation. For businesses, the same can be done to help truck drivers, for example, to improve job scheduling, provide an analysis of each trip, and to show what might need improving next time around.
Road traffic accidents in India can be prevented, but we need everyone to be onboard. While road infrastructure and driving behaviour cannot improve overnight, there is an opportunity to leverage location technology to invoke positive change in the long term and continue raising public awareness of road safety.
About the Author: Animesh Sahay is Head of Customers for India & South Asia at HERE Technologies.