How IT Can Control The Blueline Menace In Delhi
A few years ago I used to write a regular column called 'Harsh Realities' for an IT publication. I used to write about wish lists of a user/common person--I wrote about what was technically possible but where no one was offering a solution in the market. Sometimes I wrote about my dreams--solutions that would make life simpler, easier and better. Sure enough, over the years almost all those dreams have come true. This has encouraged me to write again. Here we will discuss what is technically possible but not available as a commercial solution or where solutions are available but they have not caught on.
Those who are in touch with the news in Delhi would know about the Blueline buses and their propensity to stay in the news as Delhites get run over by these buses at regular intervals. The citizens of Delhi are a very upset lot when it comes to these buses. And the government is unhappy with the situation too--recently, the Delhi government forced all the buses to go off the road and undergo checks. However, this led to another problem because the people of Delhi, though they hate these buses because of the recklessness of the drivers, still depend on these buses for transportation.
Can business technology assist in solving this problem--can these buses be finally brought under control; something that no amount of traffic policing has been able to achieve? The answer is yes--a simple solution is available.
The drivers of Delhi's Blueline buses drive the way they drive--recklessly and with complete disregard for other road users, because they know that there is no system to monitor and correctly and accurately record their performance on a regular basis. After all, the government can't afford to place a traffic cop in every bus! What is needed is an IT-driven system that constantly and accurately records what the drivers do as they drive the bus. These recordings could be used for a replay when needed (location of the bus at time and place of accident, etc.) or for generating exception reports (over speeding, rash driving, overstepping the bus stop and thus forcing commuters to come on the road, etc.) and for counselling/training the driver so that he improves his driving skills/habits whenever such exceptions are noticed. In other words, these reports could be used for setting up a policing, punishments and rewards system and also for improving the driving skills of the driver.
My suggestion is to install a GPS device on all Blueline buses. This device will accurately and constantly beam the location and speed of the bus to the central server. It will also record time and location where the bus came to a halt. These points will be matched by the system with the latitudes and longitudes of the bus route and the scheduled halts of the bus. The exception statement generated from the system will tell us about bus stops that the skipped or those that he overshot, if he deviated form his route, etc. This information will flow to the supervisors of the transport company who will be under obligation to counsel the driver and to take action against the incorrigible ones. The bad cases can also be sent to the police for imposing penalties, fines and for taking other legal action. The transport companies and school authorities will be under obligation to review the exception reports and to take prompt appropriate action. This will take care of the problem to a great extent.
It is also possible to develop a special 'Black Box' for buses/trucks, which will record the acts of the driver accurately and which will be tamper proof, somewhat on the lines of an aircraft's 'Black Box'. This will even record where and when the driver changed the gear, the speed at that time, sharpness of the turn made by the driver, speed at road crossings, etc. Recording these details and monitoring them will further improve the driving skills of the driver. The main beneficiary of this system will be the transport company providing the bus because improvement in the driving skills and habits of the driver will result in lower wear and tear of mechanical components, thus improving the life of the buses and thereby bettering the Return on Investment (RoI).
And by the way, these solutions aren't prohibitively expensive. The cost of the device to be installed on the busses will cost about Rs 10,000 or so and the application at the central server will cost between Rs 50 lakhs to Rs 1 crore depending on the number of the vehicles to be monitored, response time, etc. We will also have to prepare GIS maps of the road system in the city.
The cost of the device on bus will be borne by the transport company. There would be a number of companies which would be willing to put in their money on a PPP model for the system at the central server end. A part of the cost could be recovered form the advertising revenues and the balance will have to be borne by the transport companies providing the buses. For instance, in Mumbai, the bus company (BEST) is gaining extra revenues through fees from cheque deposit boxes for telecom companies installed in buses, PCOs deployed on buses, innovative handles that have advertising messages and more. They are also considering advertisements on roofs and advertisements through LCD panels installed in buses. The transport company in Delhi could learn from this. And of course, they must pay the residual cost of the service because their buses get monitored. I believe they would be willing to pay as they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the acts of their drivers and have to bear the legal costs for the deeds/misdeeds of the drivers.
Harsh Kumar has played the role of a CIO in organisations ranging from Konkan Railway to Hindustan Petroleum (HPCL). He currently works in a senior position with the Indian Railways. The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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