Written in collaboration with Ankit Chatri
In a significant move towards using information technology and data to enhance the operations of auto rickshaws in Chennai, the Transport Department of the Government of Tamil Nadu has conceptualised the Auto Rickshaw Monitoring Information System (ARMIS). The system will use GPS enabled digital meters to track the movements of auto rickshaws on a real time basis.
With over 70,000 auto rickshaws plying the roads of Chennai, autos are an integral mode of intermediate public transportation in Chennai. The initiative is timely in wake of the rising number of complaints pertaining to refusal, excess fare and non-metering among others. This system is expected to significantly reduce the time taken by the authorities to track an auto rickshaw in the event of a complaint. Once ARMIS is operationalised, the passengers will be issued fare tickets post completion of the trip through the printer attached with the digital meters that would eventually eliminate the issue of overcharging. Auto rickshaws will also have a panic button that could serve as an important safety measure for passengers in addition to this helpline number will be provided for complaint registration.
The ARMIS system involves the installation of a GPS enabled digital meters with printer, General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), Geographic Information System(GIS) and the Web to record key parameters like the vehicle’s number, IMEI number, date, time, latitude, longitude, speed, status of the vehicle, trip status, panic status, trip start time and trip end time. In addition to collecting this, it would be useful to collect additional parameters, given that the marginal cost of collecting additional set of information would be negligible.
With ARMIS being able to comprehensively and consistently capture such data it will assist in addressing the issue of ‘data deficit’ faced by the policy makers at the State and Local level thereby improving their ability to respond to the urban mobility challenges.
Additionally, authorities can leverage crowd sourcing options to rectify data inconsistencies. However, while crowd sourcing information it would be critical to index the data collected to some unique parameters e.g., Auto Rickshaw Number and Fare Receipt Number. Engaging the general public in the process of data collection can make this a robust information system.
Given that transit oriented development is a key feature of Smart Cities, such an initiative could align well with Chennai’s pitch to become a Smart City. With a population of over 70,000 autos in the City, this gives the City a new tool to evaluate traffic dynamics and demand – supply mismatches on a real time basis, to ensure both timely and cost effective transit for millions of the Citizens.