Today, urban areas in India face several transportation related problems that act as impediments to development and economic growth. Major among these are (MoUD, 2005): (a) accessibility constraints due to traffic congestion resulting from vehicular growth; for example, on an average, while the population of India’s six major metropolises increased by about 1.8 times during 1981 to 2001, the number of motor vehicles went up by over 6 times during the same period; (b) increased cost of travel, especially for the poor, due to safety risks in using cheaper modes of travel like bicycle and walk, and due to increased travel distances; (c) safety is a concern in cities, with accident rates going up from 1.6 lakh in 1981 to over 3.9 lakh in 2001. The number of persons killed in road accidents has also gone up from 28,400 to over 80,000 during the same period (MoRTH); (d) severe air pollution affecting people’s health and quality of life. These issues need to be addressed for improved mobility and better quality of life. To address some of these problems, technology applications can be resorted to.
Advanced technologies are increasingly being applied to road transportation systems. Such applications are more popularly known as Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS). ITS apply advanced technologies to transportation systems with the aim of enhancing the efficiency and safety. Broadly, these technologies include such aspects as electronics, communication and control. The capabilities of these technologies when combined with the transportation systems make them “intelligent.” Examples of ITS applications include use of CCTVs and video image processors to monitor the status of traffic conditions in real time, and using this information to manage traffic through driver advisories, incident response, and adaptive control; use of advanced technologies such as Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to provide in-vehicle navigation systems for guiding the driver; management of commercial vehicles through position location; advanced vehicle control, including automation; enhancing the efficiency of operations of public transportation through real-time passenger information systems and fleet control. According to ITS America, improvements in safety, quicker emergency response, better travel information, easier and safer travel, improved traffic flow, fewer traffic jams, improved fleet management, and faster freight deliveries are the array of benefits that ITS can bring about.
Countries such as the US and Japan have harnessed advanced technologies in the form of ITS to manage congestion and to promote safety. Evidence of ITS interests or activities has been found in many more countries. Clearly, the benefits of ITS are beginning to be realized by more and more countries. India too can benefit from ITS applications, especially in the areas of safety enhancement, congestion mitigation and pollution reduction, emergency management, commercial vehicle management, electronic payment and public transportation operations.
Intelligent Transportation Systems has been classified by ITS America into six functional area:
1. Advanced Traffic Management Systems (ATMS)
2. Advanced Traveler Information Systems (ATIS)
3. Commercial Vehicle Operations (CVO)
4. Advanced Vehicle Control Systems (AVCS)
5. Advanced Public Transportation Systems (APTS) and
6. Advanced Rural Transportation Systems (ARTS)