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Our cities need to get smarter

Updated: November 23, 2015 1:12:33 AM

As India’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, it brings with it the related problems of pollution and unchecked migration to cities.

As India’s population continues to grow at an alarming rate, it brings with it the related problems of pollution and unchecked migration to cities. A recent study suggests that by 2030, 590 million will inhabit India’s cities and 70% of new employment will be generated in urban areas. Cities are drivers of economic growth and going ahead, their role is only going to get pronounced.

Even as Indian cities continue to expand, infrastructure growth is unable to keep pace with urbanisation. To cope with increasing urbanisation, India is in dire need of smart, cost-effective and efficient solutions. When it comes to creating a city, mobility is one of the key issues that need utmost attention. Under any given situation, people do need to get from one place to another, be it for work or personal reasons. Old vehicles must be replaced with new ones, those that are efficient, conserve energy and save costs. Robust transport system is the backbone of any urban establishment and as India works towards realising its ‘100 Smart Cities’ vision, this assumes all the more importance. We need efficient traffic management systems that will help reduce chaos, waiting time of vehicles and transit time.

As our planet becomes more urban, our cities need to get smarter. To handle this large-scale urbanisation, we’ll need to find new ways to manage complexity, increase efficiency, reduce expenses, and improve quality of life. With this rapid growth ahead of us, emerging technologies are poised to reshape our urban environments. However, some of the top challenges will include devising a fool-proof plan to develop smart cities, increasing the renewable energy, water supply, effective waste management, meeting power demand, urban mobility, ICT connectivity, e-governance, etc, certainly not missing out on the road conditions,  traffic management and environmental sustainability.

A smart city in the real sense could do wonders for the ease of its residents. Smart cities could improve traffic flow management by optimising traffic lights and speed limits and by offering re-routing suggestions based on real-time traffic jam alerts.  In future, smart cities could even use connected street-lights to illuminate slippery road-sections in another colour when detected by a connected car to alert other road users to dangerous road conditions.

Cars that are efficient, environmentally friendly will help shape the eco-cities of the future. In India, the electric and hybrid vehicle industry is virtually non-existent. A shift to electric mobility is essential to offset depletion of fossil fuels, increase in fuel costs, and impact of transportation on the environment. It is heartening to see that the government is willing to spend R1,400 crore over the next two years on incentives and subsidies for makers and buyers of electric vehicles as part of an effort to have at least six million electric vehicles on Indian roads by 2020.

Even autonomous vehicles come with their own advantages like freeing people from the task of driving in order to work or relax. They will very soon become better at avoiding accidents with people, vehicles and their surroundings than human drivers.

Given that an estimated 70% of the world’s population will live in cities by 2050, sustainable urbanisation has become a key policy point being discussed across the globe. It is also estimated that in the next 15 years, the urban population will contribute nearly 75% to the

India’s GDP. Car makers should innovate products and operations to provide scalable and tangible solutions for increasing fuel efficiency in conventional cars. We should make our manufacturing more efficient and offer cars that are both smart and safe for all people in all imaginable traffic situations.

By Tom von Bonsdor

The writer is managing director, Volvo Cars India

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