The provision of clean, affordable and efficient public transportation is fundamental to the success of all major cities. As we aspire towards the green, safe and agile smart cities of tomorrow, a more holistic approach to transportation that demands radical improvement in passenger safety and security is required.
All of which raises significant questions. What of existing transport infrastructure? How can it be adapted and improved to raise safety standards both inside and outside the vehicle? These are just two of the issues that we address when helping clients to formulate their plans to reach smart city status. Let’s examine them more closely.
Leveraging the potential of technology
Large metropolitan urban conurbations represent some of the most difficult challenges when it comes to upgrading existing transport infrastructure. They also have some of the most densely populated strips of land on the planet and, consequently, the busiest roads and highways. Improving safety in these areas often means giving the drivers of public transportation vehicles as much help as possible.
One approach is to use Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which can be integrated into existing buses to deliver tangible road safety benefits, including blind spot detection and lane departure warnings, as well as more advanced features that assist the driver to avoid collisions.
Another idea is the adaptation of driver monitoring to detect signs of fatigue for example (drooping eyelids or nodding heads) or even unwanted behavior such as mobile phone usage or eating while on the road. Increasingly, transport operators want to keep an eye on the driver which, after all, is the most important component in the vehicle.
We can also help improve the view. Full 360-degree external camera views help enormously, giving the driver a comprehensive view of his external environment that significantly enhances situational awareness. If a pedestrian wanders inadvertently into the blind spot of a bus, the driver will have a much better chance to spot the danger and react with split-second timing.
Stemming the rising tide of public transport crime
As well as reducing the risk of passenger injuries and fatalities from accidents, mounting evidence also suggests that public transportation operators also need to take steps to improve to stem the rising tide of crime on their networks.
The scale of the problem is perhaps best illustrated in large cities like London. For example, there were 4,734 injuries reported in 2017-18 on the London Underground alone, a rise of 5.3% compared to 2016-17. Crime on the system also increased by a substantial 23.6% during 2017-18, accounting for 2,557 additional offences compared with the previous year. The problem is not exclusive to the UK either. According to the NYPD, the New York subway system saw a 3.8 percent increase in total crime in 2018 compared to 2017. Clearly this is a cause for concern.
How can we tackle the issue of crime on the transportation networks of major cities throughout the world? We are currently working with several clients that are looking at adding smart security surveillance features to the interior of their buses and metro cars – specifically by adding more cameras to the existing system.
In-vehicle camera systems act as a visual deterrent against crime, cutting the number of petty theft instances and low-level assaults that can cause considerable distress to passengers and drivers alike. The presence of cameras also deters minor acts of vandalism, reducing maintenance costs while also improving passenger perceptions of the service. In addition, incidences of fare evasion can be reduced, improving margins for the operator and providing video evidence that can be used to help prosecute offenders.
Taking this a step further in the future, Edge AI technology could be applied to add pattern, motion and object recognition, for example to spot medical emergencies and detect suspicious packages in real-time. This enhances the safety of the entire urban population, without being intrusive to passengers or creating barriers to normal everyday transport operations.
Turning Smart City visions into reality
VIA is currently working with several operators to integrate the technologies mentioned above to help make public transport safer. We are adapting solutions such as VIA Mobile360 ADAS and VIA Mobile360 Surround View systems to fit the specific needs of the client, adding cabin surveillance systems and driver monitoring – features that make commuters feel tangibly safer. It’s all about tailoring the technology to meet the needs of the client so that they can transform their Smart City visions into reality.
Note: This article is part of a series of pieces about smart city transportation trends that we have recently published on the VIA website.The content has been amended in places.