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Taming the killer Blueline buses

As Bluelines continue their killing spree in the Capital, Harsh Kumar writes about judicious application of Global Positioning Service technology to ensure safety on roads.

india Updated: Oct 09, 2007 10:04 IST

Delhi's Blueline buses have acquired a killer reputation in recent time. Readers have become familiar to a daily roll-call of Blueline deaths. People in Delhi have often clamoured to take all these buses off the road but that would lead to commuting problem. Can technology assist in solving this problem and make roads safer Delhiites?

Let us look at the problem before suggesting a solution. The drivers of the 'killer' buses know that there is no system to monitor and record their performance when they are behind the steering wheel. Placing inspectors all along the routes to monitor them is too expensive. The drivers often run away from the site after the accident and sometimes the buses cannot be traced. So if we have a system which constantly and accurately records what they do, the problem will be under control to a great extent.

These recordings could be used for action replay when needed (location of the bus at time and place of accident etc.) or for generating exception reports (over speeding, rash driving, not stopping at the bus stand etc.) and counselling/training the driver so that he improves his driving skills/habits. In other words the recordings could be used for policing, punishments or rewards and also for improving the driving skills of the driver.

This kind of detailed monitoring can be done by putting a Global Positioning System (GPS) on all the buses. This device will accurately and constantly beam the location and speed of the bus to the central server. It will also record time and location where the bus came to a halt. These points will be matched by the computer with the latitudes and longitudes of the bus route and the scheduled halts of the bus. The statements generated from the system will tell us bus-stops where the driver did not stop the bus or stopped much ahead/short of the bus stop or if he deviated from his route etc. etc. This information will flow to the supervisors of the transport company who will be under obligation to counsel the driver and to take action against the incorrigible ones.

These records can also be monitored by the police for imposing penalties, fines and for taking other legal actions. The transport companies and school authorities will be under obligation to review the reports and to take prompt appropriate action. This will take care of the problems to a great extent.

It is also possible to design a special 'Black Box' for buses/trucks, on the lines of the Black Boxes used on airlines. These tamper proof Black Boxes can record where and when the driver changed the gear, the speed at that time, sharpness of the turn made by the diver, speed at the road crossing etc. Recording these details and monitoring them will further improve the driving /skills of the driver. The main beneficiary of this system will be the transport company providing the bus because improvement in the driving skills and habits of the driver will result in less wear and tear of the buses and it will also improve life of the buses and thereby increasing the Return on Investment (ROI).

Let us now discuss the cost of the device and solution.

The cost of GPS devices to be put on the buses will cost about Rs 10,000/- or so while the software at the central server will cost about Rs 50 lakhs to Rs one crore depending on the number of the vehicles to be monitored and response time etc. We will also have to prepare maps of the road system in the city. The cost of the device on bus will be borne by the transport company. There would be a number of companies which will be willing to put in their money on public private partnership model for the system at the central server end. A part of the cost could be recovered from the advertising revenues and the balance will have to be borne by the transport companies providing the buses. Certainly they must pay the residual cost of the service because their buses get monitored. They would be willing to pay as they are the ones who are ultimately responsible (vicarious liability) for the acts of their drivers and have to bear the legal etc. costs of the deeds/misdeeds of the drivers.

Just as the move to CNG fuel led to a dramatic improvement in the lives of Delhiites, the move to GPS can make our lives a lot safer. For the sake of my fellow citizens, I hope this move happens sooner.

Harsh Kumar is member (Finance) of the Railway Board. He has been associated with the IT industry for many years. The author can be contacted on

First Published: Sep 20, 2007 21:24 IST