The problems of traffic congestion, upward spiralling pollution levels and the long wait for a public transport to come your way may have become commonplace in most metros. And Chennai is no different, if not worse, with over 40 lakh vehicles plying on the city roads each day.
The ideal solution is minimising the number of vehicles on the roads by encouraging people to make better use of public transport. This is where a piece of technology developed by the Center of Excellence in Urban Transport, IIT-Madras, shows potential.
A team of researchers from the transportation engineering division of the department of civil engineering at IIT-Madras have been working for several years to develop a real-time bus prediction system – something that will accurately tell users the time at which the bus will arrive at a particular stop. The research team told City Express that the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) has extended its full cooperation.
“We had installed GPS in 200 buses covering 15 important routes in Phase 1 and now MTC has given in-principle clearance to install GPS in another 200 buses, thereby covering most parts of the city. The project is funded by the Union Ministry of Urban Development and we are confident that either the Union government or State government will adopt the technology fully soon.” Speaking on how it works, the team said the technology uses inputs from GPS units installed in buses as a primary source to determine the time taken by buses travelling between two locations. Data from the previous buses that plied on the same route will be used as inputs, in addition to the real time data, for the indigenously developed algorithm to forecast the bus arrival at a particular stop.
The team also said the technology was developed keeping in mind the heterogeneous traffic conditions in Indian cities. Factors like bus break-down, traffic, abrupt stoppage of services, unscheduled changes and cut-route services can be automated.
The technology was implemented for selected routes of MTC, 5C and 19B, and is running in real time and predicting busses arrival time dynamically at all the stops on these routes. The vehicles moving without any lane discipline makes prediction of arrival time a challenging task and the proposed technology was tested under these conditions too. The prediction had an accuracy of three minutes 95% of the time. “According to an international study, passengers have a reasonably high tolerance when the disparity between predicted and actual arrival time is less than five minutes,” said the team.
Transport agencies can share information on a real-time basis and users can get the status on their smartphones and can even get SMS alerts.