More Data Traffic Between Mobility Companies and Citizen Groups Can Reduce Vehicular Traffic

The emergence of the application of data and AI in traffic control has been a frontier area for many days. One way to make transportation intelligent is to build self-driving cars and the other way is to leverage the humongous amounts of traffic data to streamline the movement of vehicles. The problem is the data currently exists with many government agencies, mobility companies, citizen groups and other agencies. 

There are various problems that plague modern transportation systems in big Indian cities. The increasing rates of motorisation and inefficient public transport are the biggest problems. NITI Aayog has also signed up various agreements to build “Intelligent Transportation Systems”.

Bengaluru is one of the cities with a very bad reputation when it comes to traffic. With this in mind, mobility giant Uber working with a citizen action group called Bangalore Political Action Committee (B.PAC), has proposed a solution to the Karnataka government. They have urged the government to build a secure data sharing mechanism to let various groups and private companies share insights from travel and transport data. This is one of the major suggestions mentioned in a report. 

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B.MOBILE, B.PAC And The Mobility Initiative

The report titled, ‘Sustainable Mobility in Bengaluru’ and proposed various measures to improve the state of mobility in Bengaluru. On B.PCAB’s website, the initiative is explained as follows, “Our goal is to push for sustainable mobility for all by encouraging the use of public transport and disincentivizing private vehicle usage.”

The report was a result of a long nine-month partnership between Uber and B.PAC. In partnership, both organisations conducted a lot of round table discussions and workshops which saw participation from the state government, elected representatives and other stakeholders. The report observes that Bengaluru is one of the fastest-growing cities and the mobility situation has not been up to date. 

Talking about the need for this report says, “The city has public mobility of 48% and private mobility of 52% as against Mumbai’s public mobility of 80%. This inverted structure is clearly unsustainable for any city. It is to understand comprehensively the reasons for this situation, the opportunities, challenges and actions required to improve Bengaluru’s mobility that a specific study was required. “

Report And Emphasis On Data Sharing

The report has been divided into several parts covering major issues concerning transportation. The chapters talk about the transport regulatory ecosystem,  incentivising shift from private transport, first and last-mile connectivity to public transport and sustainable and green transport for Bengaluru. One of the major initiatives proposed in the report that can lead to major innovations and improvements is the initiative to share data more broadly.

The regulatory and policy interventions suggested one section points to the specific need where it says: “The Government should create opportunities for new mobility service providers through a Regulatory Sandbox, allowing them to pilot their solutions in a specific location for a specific period. Mobility data should be open, safe and secure to help gauge and assess the impact of new mobility solutions in connecting public transit and their contributions to reducing congestion.” 

The report and the team behind it quite correctly understand the digital nature of modern mobility. Each and every citizen generates some kind of data when they move from one place to another. Even transportation companies and other institutions generate a lot of data that can be leveraged to see how the transport ecosystem behaves and reacts to changes. 

The report suggests that data can be a game-changer to reshape transportation. The report states, “Every mobility service availed by a citizen generates data that when aggregated at city population-level becomes key for evidence-based planning, policy enablement and evolution as well as for driving innovation in solving the urban mobility problem. A journey dataset is but one such dataset that can make this possible. Datasets like license, vehicle registration and permits data held with the Transport department; road network, parking, land-use and plot-level data held with BBMP and BDA; traffic violations and accident data with BTP need to be brought under the open data agenda.”

Design principles for data exchange system:

  1. It should generate more rides for various operators.
  2. Open Data must be a natural derivative of mobility journey transactions i.e. data is emitted before being stored by mobile operators.
  3. Privacy and confidentiality friendly
  4. The open digital infrastructure should be governed with transparent and fair rules by the participation of relevant stakeholders.

Is It Possible?

It is clear that everyone has to be able to share transport mobility data since no one way of commuting solves all problems. A true full-stack transport experience will need many pieces of transportation modules. To make this possible, open and usable data needs to be available so everyone can have a cheap, complete and satisfactory experience that will also be sustainable and eco-friendly in the long run. 

The other side of the coin is intensives. It remains to be seen how mobility operators share their data and what incentives are needed for them to participate. The current incentives although look promising, more is surely needed. 

Abhijeet Katte
As a thorough data geek, most of Abhijeet's day is spent in building and writing about intelligent systems. He also has deep interests in philosophy, economics and literature.

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