Cool Chilli’s Comments
We need to Take a 360 Degree look at Transportation Ecosystem/Technologies
With reference to Self driving cars, Uber’s founder Travis Kalanick once (in)famously said that India would be the last place to get them. He may now be eating his words. The Indian Government’s pro-active is moving to get laws tweaked to facilitate autonomous driving is commendable. This must encourage technology/business pioneers.
In the US, these firms try to find loopholes in the law for their trials. The ‘driverless’ cars jump red-lights and the Department of Motor Vehicles is constrained to issue ‘show cause notices’.
New Technologies – Double-edged Swords in India
These new technologies are double edged swords for a country like India. With more than 450 urban centres (the number of cities and towns with population more than 1 lakh), India needs new transportation concepts/implementations and infrastructure to help its citizens and also fuel its economy. But there is also a danger. Improperly configured software could impact more lives in Indian scenarios. When a driver-less car goes beserk in the West, it may cause less harm (to number of lives). In India, for obvious reasons, fall out would, sadly, be sizable. Planning and Allocation is fine. But effectively following through is not a strong Indian trait.
As beautifully analysed by the Hyderabad based Indian Institute of Human Settlements, India needs to up its ante in closing the loop on multiple fronts with respect to urban transportation. The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission was a good initiative of the then Congress Government at the Centre. However it has yielded only limited benefits due to gaps in monitoring/ validation of implementation on the ground. We cannot afford these.
Money in Moving Masses. Musk et al interested.
India is also attracting interest from stakeholders/parties for various means of transportation. These could include completely new concepts or improvements. Options are quite a few. Bullet trains, Metro Rail Systems, Monorail, Hyperloop, not to mention Inland water ways (Chennai and the Malabar atleast). Drones, Driverless Cars and Hyper Cars (flying cars in the future) round off this list. Just imagine, if we get into an ‘interlinking of rivers project’, our inland waterways may also cover more of the country. A comprehensive nodal agency will enable this.
This ‘logistics and transportation nodal agency’ should envisage and structure the entire ecosystem for the overall benefit of the common man and the nation at large. A over-arching Authority (akin to TRAI for Telecom) for Transportation may make things easier towards this end. Individual fiefdoms like ‘Water Resources Ministry’, ‘Roads and Highways’ or ‘Railways’ trying to push their clout can be subsets of this agency.
India should think through all the elements above and also learn from China’s successes in long term planning and implementation of mega infrastructure projects. We can learn from our neighbour even if he doesn’t always say ‘Hi’ to us or ‘aye’ to our proposals……