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IoT for Managing Road Accident Rates

Most of us have been hearing and probably following concepts or terms such as smart cities, smart homes, smart gadgets, internet of everything, industrial internet of things (IIoT), etc. If you are not familiar with what is IoT or what is M2M? And what does it really mean for a layman then please first have a quick 2 minute here. Explaining IoT to a Layman

Grave Situation

Accidents are increasing at an alarming rate in the world and especially in India. Around 1, 37,000 people were killed in road accidents which is more than people killed in all wars together. There are various reasons ranging from bad road conditions, over speeding, Poor Street lighting to road rage, drunken driving, improper road designs and few others. Two wheeler account for 25% of the total accidents in India. India comes out to be in the top if you look at the statistics. The situation is becoming so serious that now some media and some research is putting a stats that there is one accident every minute in India.

Metros in India are competing with each other to become accident capital of the world, it really scares me to take my car out, especially when I observe the style of driving, people cutting lanes, autos driving in the wrong direction and traffic signals being abused without any monitoring from the traffic police. Highways even though expanding in number of lanes are not becoming safer, with no proper signage, trucks not following the guidelines, motorists driving at their own speed limit and lane cutting resulting in very dangerous driving scenarios. It seems roads are turning into „maut ka kuan“ (adventurous game inside a wooden well like set up).

Now let’s see how various technology based solutions under the umbrella of IoT/M2M can help to reduce the accident rates or at least help better manage emergencies during accidents.

Smart Helmets

For bikers whether motorcycle or bicycle it is key to wear a helmet and safeguard against head injuries. But what if there is a smarter helmet that also communicates with the other drivers and vehicles. For example helmet having LED lights on it that are connected with the bike handle (through Bluetooth or some low energy communication protocol) and the lights turn RED when the breaks are applied on bicycle. LED on the left or right side of the helmet blinks when the bicycle making left or right turn respectively. Also how about putting a little GPS connection between the smart phone and the helmet which can allow biker to project direction on the road.

Most importantly helmet is connected to smart phone and in case of a fall or accident, which sensor connected on helmet can sense easily, sends a message to relative or family members 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 but it shows that at cost of INR 3000 they were able to build a prototype. At larger scale this solution can be made economical and affordable by the riders. Another onehttp://yourstory.com/2015/08/safedrive/

Connected Cars & Connected Highways

Everyone these days talks about connected cars, as per some research, almost 80% of cars coming in the market from Jan 2018 onward would have an embedded module that will allow the car to be connected with the owner and as well with the manufacturer.

Once your car or vehicle is connected to the internet and to you through a mobile app, there can be plethora of information exchange both ways, which can tremendously help in managing the road accidents. One of the basic use case is informing your near and dear ones in case your cars meets with an accident.

Deutsche Telekom Connected Car concept

But let’s for a minutes think about how connected cars and connected highways can help prevent or minimize accidents. During the heavy fog in the winter, recently on one of the express highways between Delhi and Agra, 50 cars banged into each other.  A connected highway and car could have sense 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, when the car leaves the highway through an exit or the last toll, then a similar reader can remove it from the system. Cameras on the light poles or the RFID on the car, which met with an accident can communicate to the backend informing of its status which acts like a trigger to central server and indicates a possible accident or a slowdown.

Another feature I can think of is Auto lock built into the car to avoid over speeding where in if the speed goes over 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 theconnected car concept, which highlights some of the areas and important points.

Smart Traffic Management

With the nature of connected cars and connected highways or roads other solutions such as smart traffic management, where the traffic conditions and blockages can be managed in a way that bottleneck the junctions is minimal. 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 to catch the violators easily and also charge them penalty through an automated/integrated payments system. This not only helps to catch the violators but also reduce the bribe culture, which is prevalent in India. Delhi government during the odd-even rule in New Delhi collected huge amount of fines but also were able to reduce the traffic on the road, how about a technology based solution that allows them to catch the offenders automatically and also to collect fines.

Look at this video, which very well explains smarter transport, by Sarah Mitchell from IBM https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pafb6fDAD-M#t=51

Conclusion

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

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