While autonomous vehicles may not be a reality in India in the very near future, Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari believes that artificial intelligence-driven technology can soon be used to improve road safety and reduce traffic congestion.
“My vision is to use AI for enforcement purposes, specifically where state government machinery is falling short due to variety of reasons,” he said at the recent ‘all.ai’ 2021 Summit organised by tech giant Intel.
- Lane discipline, overspeeding, seatbelt usage, and more, can be monitored using AI
- As a pilot project, Nagpur buses have been equipped with AI-powered tech
- Experiments with AI could be extended to other parts of India
Scope for AI use
Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari: My vision is to use AI for enforcement purposes, where state government machinery is falling short.
The minister said that there are plenty of opportunities for application of AI-driven technologies in the transport sector to remove human interference and possibility of errors, thereby improving efficiencies and safety. “I encourage AI usage for urgent and pressing issues, such as enforcement of lane discipline on national highways, especially for trucks, detection of over-speeding and seatbelt usage, carrying out forensic post-crash investigation, observing pattern of accidents at black spots and installing fatigue indicators and sleep detectors for drivers and advanced vehicle collision [prevention] systems,” he said.
He further said, “AI can be used to combine data from all these sources, which can be utilised for making suitable changes at the policy level. The private sector can extend its cooperation and provide technological assistance to engineering students and third-party agencies to study and submit an Accident Analysis report using AI-based technologies.”
“With the help of AI, we can measure, manage and predict traffic conditions which will allow us to take necessary steps to avoid congestion,” he added.
ADAS pilot project in Nagpur
Gadkari mentioned that the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has constituted a National Road Safety Council (NRSC) as an independent body to conduct road safety activities in consultation with all stakeholders.
“I had the opportunity to launch an AI-powered project called iRASTE (Intelligent Solutions for Road Safety through Technology and Engineering) in Nagpur," he said. "It is a unique industry-academia partnership, initiated by the Nagpur Municipal Corporation, Intel, INAI, IIIT-Hyderabad, Mahindra & Mahindra, CSIR-CRRI (Central Road Research Institute). The project brings together top experts from India in the field of AI and road safety.”
Under the project, Nagpur city buses will be equipped with AI-powered Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), which will provide an alert to the driver two seconds before any collision happens. In case of collision, the technology will help identify and map potential accident ‘black spots’ on the entire city road network, which can then be used to implement early preventive safety measures. The monitoring is done continuously on city roads to gather information about road surface, assets and other infrastructure that can allow timely improvement work and ensure safety of road users.
“I am sure that the project will lead the world in leveraging AI for road safety goals. I am also confident that after the success of the project in Nagpur, we will want to expand such projects across India,” stated Gadkari.
Urgency to improve road safety in India
The transport minister said road safety is the topmost priority of the Indian government, which is endeavouring to reduce road accidents by 50 percent by 2024.
“Today, India accounts for 5 crore accidents, about 1,50,000 fatalities and 3,00,000 serious injuries annually. The national and state level highway comprise only about 5 percent of the network, but they have a share of up to 60 percent in road deaths,” he said.
He continued, “Over the last several years, we have been working on a multi-pronged strategy – building better roads and fixing issues with existing road infrastructure to promote safety. Efforts are also underway on training drivers and spreading awareness about road safety in public. We are implementing advanced technology, electronic surveillance systems for safe and efficient traffic movement on Indian highways. We understand the solution requires a very collaborative approach from the grassroots level to make the effort successful.”
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