Designing a Smart Bus System for a Seamless Indian Commute

Intel India Writer

With an increase in urban population, governments from around the world are leveraging technology to offer commuters better travel experiences. India’s bus-based transport system has also started to smarten up with the help from tech startups.

India’s current bus-based transport system in most of the areas paints a dismal picture – high accident and fatality rates, poorly organised public transport systems, few metro and local train networks, parking issues, theft, lack of options and absolutely no integrated transport plan.

“The bus-based travel industry itself is largely unorganised,” said Anoop Menon, CTO of redBus, a bus ticketing and hotel room reservation platform in India. “With vehicles increasing exponentially over the years, traffic snarls in the cities and on highways are causing significant delays in bus arrivals and departures. Plus, the lack of proper policy to enforce road safety or check speeding worsened the situation.”

With a World Bank study predicting that Indian cities will be home to approximately 600 million people by 2031, it is perhaps time for a much-needed renaissance in Indian transport.

The Times, They Are A-Changing

Transformation in the country is slow, but it’s underway with enterprises using innovative technology to ease commuter woes.

Birds Eye Systems in Mumbai offers traffic and transport information apps – Traffline and Ridlr –to enhance city dwellers’ commuting experiences. Several bus aggregation apps including limo, Shuttl, ZipGo and Cityflo have enabled online bus bookings for regular travel routes. In smaller cities such as Pune, Autowale, AutoRaja and mGaadi function as Uber of the auto rickshaw, bringing drivers together through a single platform to provide convenient commutes for passengers.

Where buses are concerned, Bengaluru-based redBus is one of those companies that have taken India’s transport scene by storm.

The “Smart Bus”: redBus is using technology to make a positive impact on commuter experiences in India.
The “Smart Bus”: redBus is using technology to make a positive impact on commuter experiences in India.

Through the redBus website and mobile app, commuters can book bus tickets and choose their seats online from more than 1,500 bus operators. They can also check boarding points, timings and bus types.

For customers today, convenience is the name of the game. “Getting bus ticket booking online is the key factor that has helped the Indian bus industry grow at a faster pace,” said Menon. “It has also helped tackle some of the transport-related issues considerably, such as the timing of bus arrivals and departures as well as delays.”

A smart bus system relies on online booking which makes it easier for commuters to purchase bus tickets and track arrival times.
A smart bus system relies on online booking which makes it easier for commuters to purchase bus tickets and track arrival times.

On the other hand, bus operators can more effectively manage their inventory based on demand from online bookings, monitor their routes through GPS-based tracking solutions, increase ridership and chart new routes based on data analytics, and track individual driver’s characteristics, he added.

Given how IT is being innovatively used to resolve sectoral pain points, Menon said that disruptive technologies have ushered in many advantages in a sector where IT has traditionally never really penetrated.

“IT has been the mainstay of our solutions,” he explained. “Our review and rating platform helps customers make better choices based on other passengers’ feedback when booking tickets. Services and yield are also optimised and improved through customer feedback.”

The “Smart Bus” system of the future

 India’s tech startups have played a part in revolutionising the country’s bus transport system, but other issues such as the growing concerns about the environment, increased fuel costs and the depletion of fossil fuels also need to be addressed to smooth the way for transformation.

Traffic in front of Hawa Mahal, or the Palace of Winds, Rajasthan.
Traffic in front of Hawa Mahal, Jaipur, India

It is imperative to explore possibilities such as using electric and hybrid vehicles, which are currently non-existent in the country; switching to biofuels with an ethanol blending programme to cut oil imports; installing intelligent traffic lighting systems; developing river stretches to transport goods and passengers in a sustainable manner; and implementing stringent policies to cut vehicle pollution.

 Menon is optimistic about the way ahead as smart transportation has already emerged in India, even though it still has a long way to go. Given the wide range of technological tools available today, it’s time for India to put its expertise in IT to better use to make the Indian transport sector a smart one befitting a smart nation.

Hero Image: People boarding a bus in Mumbai, India.

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