Social Value Creation Report "Lifeline Infrastructure"
New approaches essential to relieve traffic congestions in world cities
The ever-increasing global population and its centralization in larger cities are among some factors creating a serious issue of traffic congestions in growing cities.
Traffic congestions not only lead to economic and time losses, but contribute to air pollution and global climate change. It is without question, one of the core issues in traffic infrastructure design in urban areas.
Amid this trend, the dev elopment and introduction of the next-generation traffic infrastructure that addresses the issue of traffic congestion is ongoing around the world.
The next-generation traffic infrastructure will achieve high cost efficiency and lower environmental burden while providing smoother, and safer means of transportation for urban residents.
The cornerstone in this mission is the latest ICT.
NEC offers ICT-based next-generation traffic infrastructure in collaboration with local firms and other organizations in Japan and other parts of the world, including Asia and Europe.
NEC has already delivered systems in Japan and other countries that have not only reduced traffic congestions, but also established safe and secure transportation for users and a framework for early responses in the event of accidents.
This report overviews NEC's cutting-edge technologies and eff orts in the areas of traffic infrastructure networks and systems, which NEC has developed over the years.
Serious impact of traffic congestions on economies globally
According to 2015 UN statistics, the world population, which was 2.5 billion in 1950, is estimated to grow to 9.1 billion by 2040 and 9.7 billion by 2050.
The populations in Japan and developed countries in Europe will remain at an overall stable level or decrease due to low birth rates. At the same time, rapid increases in population are expected in the Middle East and African countries. Furthermore, most of the increased population is predicted to concentrate even more in urban areas.
One of the serious social problems that arise from population increase and concentration in urban areas is traffic congestion. The negative impact of traffic jams on the society is enormous, causing economic loss as well as a serious level of air pollution. Today, the growth in road transportation demand and the inefficient utilization of automobiles continue to deteriorate road traffic conditions year by year. The economic loss and increase in logistics cost incurred from the time lost are already seriously affecting the economy on a global scale.
One of the specific losses that derive from such traffic congestions is personnel costs. The extensive travel time caused by traffic jams increase labor hours. In addition to aggravating fuel efficiency, congested traffic leads to increased CO2 and NOx emissions, which are factors of air pollution and global climate change.
According to an European location-based service provider, the most traffic-congested city in the world is Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, followed by Bangkok in Thailand, Istanbul in Turkey, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, Moscow in Russia, and Bucharest in Romania. However, this survey possibly does not include sufficient data from the Asian region; we can readily imagine Jakarta in Indonesia, known for its heavy traffic, ranking high on the list.
The "transport demand management" required for relieving traffic congestions
In present-day cities of emerging economies, the number of automobiles is increasing at an overwhelming rate, exacerbating the already serious traffic congestion. Under such circumstances, the most pressed for solution to traffic congestions is an effective "transport demand management." There are broadly four approaches to transport demand management. The first approach is "congestion charging", which suppresses traffic demand during congestion; the second is "public transportation shift" where commuters' modal shift from automobiles is encouraged; the third is "telework" for adjusting the cause of travel; and finally the fourth, "personal mobility" for more efficient use of roads.
Congestion charges primarily aim to ease congestion level, particularly to reduce traffic density during peak times in urban districts. The benefits include, not to mention smoother traffic, creation of new revenue streams, air pollution and noise control, and promotion of the use of public transportation. Congestion charges are already implemented in London and Stockholm, where several improvements, including reduced traffic, accidents, and exhaust emissions, are observed.
For a successful switchover to public transportation, a convenient public transportation system must be established as an alternative to private cars. Guideway transits, such as subways, are expensive and have a long construction time--therefore, dedicated-lane buses called bus rapid transits (BRT) are mainly used. For example, a pilot program for promoting bus use was operated from 2011 through 2014 by Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in the public transportation improvement project conducted in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Telework is intended to reduce travel by permitting workers to commute to an office near home. The pilot program conducted by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) of Japan has reported that almost half of the teleworkers were able to reduce their commuting time.
Compact one or two-seater personal mobility vehicles can make more effective use of roads. An example of the use of such vehicles is the adoption of one-seater vehicles by delivery services in Japan.
These innovations have immediate effects and are deployable with investment at the city expansion planning stage, which make them suitable for growing cities in dealing with traffic congestion problems.
BRTs as practical solutions to traffic congestion
As mentioned on the previous page, a modal shift to public transportation as one way of relieving urban traffic congestions involves entry restriction by law, the promotion of park & ride, the development of bicycle and walkway environments, and the promotion of the use of public transportation systems, including BRTs, LRTs, and MRTs*.
Among other things, bus transportation is the most realistic means to alleviate the urban traffic issue due to the low investment costs and short construction time. In particular, a mass public transit system called BRT is attracting attention due to its high cost efficiency and short construction period.
In a BRT system, bus vehicles run on a dedicated lane distinguished from other general lanes and stop at dedicated boarding stations. It is also characterized by its station platform, which rises above the ground for easier, smoother boarding and debarkation. In most cases, bi-articulated high capacity buses are used to enable mass transit. Passengers are required to pay fares at the stations before boarding.
Compared to urban transportation by railroad, BRTs can be deployed with a unit construction cost per distance as low as one-third to one-fourth of the cost of the former. A price standard acceptable by local residents is especially necessary in emerging economies--bus transit services can offer a means of accessible transportation thanks to its low investment cost.
As of May 2016, BRTs are established in 203 cities around the world, running on a total of 363 dedicated bus lanes extending 5,322 kilometers and used by approximately 33 million people. As BRTs originated in Brazil in the 1970's, they are most commonly seen in Latin America, running in 59 cities in 11 countries over a total distance of 1,637 kilometers.
In 2004, the first BRT in Asia was established in Indonesia--the TransJakarta. What started out as a 13-kilometer route now extends over 207 kilometers and carries 320,000 passengers daily. The introduction of and planning for a BRT system is also ongoing in China, Thailand, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
NEC's ICT supports next-generation public transportation infrastructure around the world
Today, NEC supports numerous public transportation infrastructures all over the world with its ICT.
The exemplary example in the Asian region is the bus fl eet management system (FMS) in Hong Kong. The FMS features safe and secure bus operations centering on log data collection and automated announcements.
Buses have served a key function in the public transportation network in densely populated Hong Kong. However, local buses in Hong Kong lacked an operation management system, with no bus operation data collected. This made it impossible for bus service operators to have an accurate understanding of bus operation information, including whether buses were operating according to schedule and the drivers' driving behavior.
In addition, the absence of announcements and in-vehicle displays informing passengers of coming stops were making the service unfriendly especially for tourists.
The FMS uses GPS to obtain bus location information, which helps collect operation data, such as operational status, any deviations from schedule, and on which routes delays tend to occur.
The bus driver can identify the next stop from the location information during operation and release automated in-vehicle announcements and stop displays, which relieves him from making announcements himself and allows him to concentrate on driving, contributing to enhanced safety.
From 2014, NEC Asia Pacifi c, an NEC overseas subsidiary, has implemented a suite of innovative technologies for SMRT Corporation, a Singapore public transport service provider, that support bus service excellence.
The remote monitoring system improved drivers' driving behaviors and bus operation. In April 2016, Internet of Things (IoT), video analytics, and Software- Defi ned Networking (SDN) solutions came together to provide real-time gathering of intelligent information to improve commuter experience and bus transportation services. NEC built a system that announces the departure times of buses and trains and displays route, fare, estimated duration, and other passenger-friendly information. For the security of commuters, video analytics technology is utilized to analyze changing behavioral patterns of people and age/gender profi les of people.
These data can also help in bus schedule planning and optimization for ensuring safer, more secure bus operation.
NEC's ICT embodied in road traffic solutions
NEC has long pursued its R&D efforts in character, image, and voice recognition, which are now coming into fruition one by one.
Among others, image recognition technologies continue to evolve at a rapid pace--as an example, a person can be identifi ed, searched, and have their age and gender verifi ed by their full-face image using face recognition technology.
NEC has developed image recognition technologies that enable automatic counting of people riding an automobile.
A recognition system using cameras installed on highways and parking areas can capture the side view of moving vehicles and count the number of passengers. In the counting process, the system fi rst recognizes the face of each passenger from captured images and identifi es each passenger and their seating position from serial images.
Combined with the use of infrared cameras, individuals can still be identifi ed during nighttime hours. Detection is not interfered by UV-blocking glass, smoked glass windows, or windows covered with commercially available fi lms, as long as they are not specialized types.
Europe and certain other regions are seeing more of High Occupancy Toll(HOT) and / or High Occupancy Vehicle(HOV) lanes, or other lanes exclusively accessible to vehicles occupied by a certain number of passengers or more. Precise congestion charging is made possible by the simultaneous performance of automatic passenger detection and automatic number plate recognition.
Such image recognition technology can be applied to many different applications, including security cameras, facility entry/exit management, and other non-traffi c fi elds.
NEC, with extensive achievements in one-stop system developments from IoT devices to applications, uses its ICT to realize the new road traffi c infrastructure for the IoT age.
Next-generation traffic infrastructure carried forward in cooperation with local enterprises
NEC works together with local enterprises to build next-generation traffic infrastructure starting from system design, which includes institutional designs.
To give an example, in October 2015, NEC entered into an MOU with Colas SA, a Bouygues group (France) road construction company, for cooperative efforts for the development of innovative solutions for efficient mobility and car sharing. Currently, NEC and Colas SA are jointly engaged in the High Occupancy Vehicle(HOV) project, in which NEC's image recognition and analysis technologies are used to efficiently monitor the number of passengers in each vehicle driving on car sharing lanes--a lane dedicated to vehicles carrying a certain number of passengers or more--established in France. Together with Colas SA, through the effective proliferation and promotion of higher occupancy in vehicles, NEC aims to contribute to the reduction of CO2 emission, traffic jams, loss of time and accidents, as well as explores the expand cooperation in other areas, such as Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS), by conducting joint activities and exchanging information.
In the field of ITS, NEC also contributes to the development of ITS in Moscow in partnership with the Russian system integrator, SITRONICS KASU. NEC set up 28 LED displays, each 9 square meters in area, that are designed to inform drivers about traffic jams, accidents and weather forecasts in real-time, helping them select the best route to reach their destination quickly.
Looking at Asia, NEC is working on the development of a transit fare charging system in Bangladesh. This technical assistance project is a joint contract with JICA and aims to facilitate smooth traffic flow by building a transit fare charging system (clearing house) where a common IC card can be used for multiple public transportation systems in Dhaka. NEC's IC ticket system development know-how and technologies cultivated in Japan is at the core of this system.
With insights into issues that growing cities are experiencing, NEC is expanding its successful undertakings in effective ICT applications, achieving optimization of traffic networks, transit fare collection, sales increase, and improvements in customer satisfaction.
While respecting the essential values pursued by society and by their customers, NEC wishes to work together with everyone and use the ICT to design new social values for the sake of a brighter world.
If you have any questions concerning the contents of this report or NEC initiatives, please do not hesitate to contact us.
(February 28, 2020)