Government taking cognisance of the unfortunate incident which took place in December 2012, formed a three-member committee headed by former Chief Justice of India, JS Verma, to suggest amendments to criminal law. The committee along with its recommendations which it submitted in January 2013, suggested use of safety measure in buses for passenger safety. In the following budget session in February 2013, Government of India created a non-lapsable fund of Rs. 1000(INR 10 Billion) crores for implementation of initiatives aimed at enhancing the safety and security for women in the country. Government also started exploring technological solution to enhance passenger safety in public transport.
Technology intervention for safety
In January 2014, Government approved the project to install CCTV, panic button and vehicle tracking devices in public transport buses across 32 cities in India. Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) suggested a scheme- Security for Women in Public Transport, under which National Level Vehicle Security and Tracking System was to be setup. This scheme as given in-principle approval by Ministry of Finance. MoRTH engaged DIMTS(Delhi Integrated Multimodal Transport System) as its technology advisor for the project. The scheme was supposed to create-
- National Backend Data Centre
- City Command and Control Centre in all 32 cities
- Installation of CCTV, Panic Button and vehicle tracking system in public transport buses.
Need for Standard & its Implementation
The scale of implementation, prioritised the need to have standards for the devices, because it would help in accelerating the development and implementation of technologiesthat influence and transform our lives.
An interesting observation was made regarding the standards for tracking device and emergency buttons, –“In automotive industry, the ones who sit at the regulation side, are regulation experts; and not the subject experts. Similarly, for vehicle telematics standards too, experts from regulation side joined for its standards”.
The automotive tracking device standards drafting began with BIS(Bureau of India Standards) being assigned the work to draft the standard. DIMTS was given an assignment to draft the guideline specification for automotive tracking device. The committee also suggested that the device should be of industry grade rather than consumer grade devices which was proliferating the market. The committee took into account the Indian environment- temperature variation, dust, vibration etc, which is significantly different from those in Europe or US. DIMTS in discussion with IIT, CDAC and other submitted the guidelines by end of 2014, which was later published by MoRTH.
With specific reference to the panic button, the committee deliberated in how the user get to know whether this panic button is working? To ensure it working, there was need to have some indication for the user that the device is functional. Earlier, there was red buttons which did not show whether they are working; but later it was changed to be illuminated with backlit. One would get to know that this is working. With panic button being pressed the indication will change (blinking or it turns to red) and when it gets deactivated it will be back in the same state.
BIS along with ICAT(International Centre for Automotive Testing) and DIMTS using the guidelines formulated by DIMTS and in consultation with some of the industry players, drafted the standard (Automotive Industry Standard 140 or AIS 140) through a formal AIS working committee. The finalised draft was published in May 2017 with the effective date of implementation of mandatory use of recommended device in all public transport vehicle being 1st April 2018.
The AIS 140 Pandora Box
Some of the industry players in the field of vehicle tracking devices were caught off-guard. Telematics Wire organised a round table for vehicle tracking device manufactures and reseller on 4th of August 2017. The recommendations were submitted in the first week of Sept’2017 to AIS 140 Committee, MoRTH, DIMTS, ARAI and ICAT. But, without any cognizance of the industry recommendations AIS 140 was formally notified in September 2017, on the website of ARAI(Automotive Research Association of India), the custodian and publisher of automotive industry standards. Now all the public transport vehicle- public or private, bus or cab, they should all conform to AIS 140 guidelines starting from1st April 2018. Which effectively means any new vehicle will not get permit to ply on road if it does not conform to AIS 140. Further any old vehicle seeking fitness renewal will have to comply by AIS 140. In other words, in a year’s time all the public transport vehicle would have become AIS 140 compliant.
It was a long felt need for these standards but it took the brutal and hear-wrenching incident in the nation’s capital, inside apublic transportvehicle to wake-up the government out of its slumber.
In May 2007 with the release of finalised draft of AIS 140, government was about to take a gigantic step, but still for many the question was- whether were we ready for it? The IRNSS based tracking was on roller coaster with atomic clock in one of its geosynchronous satellite having developed error and its replacement failed in August 2017.
Informally the round table coordinator on AIS 140 at Telematics Wire was notified that it is too late for consideration of any of the points, they would be considered as amendment to the notified AIS 140 in coming months. The wait for meeting for amendment to the notified AIS 140 was in vain and finally the entire recommendation was published in Nov-Dec issue of Smart Automotive for sensitisation of larger community.
It was now a wait in anticipation!
Though initially many of the industry players were reluctant for the 1st April 2018 date, but as per the informal sources by March 2018 more than 60 companies in India were having AIS 140 compliant device and almost 30+ companies had submitted their devices for certification.
18th April 2018 ‘The Gazette of India’ notification
Ministry of Road Transport & Highways on 18th April 2018, through its Gazette notification stayed further compliance of AIS 140 in public transport vehicles till 1st April 2019.
To say the least- industry was again taken aback by this. It was as if government was taking the vehicle tracking service providers through cycles of stress test. Initially when they were seeking more time for implementation, it was denied by being non-commital on various request mail and posts which was sent to various AIS 140 committee members and departments associated with automotive industry standards. When the industry geared up by pushing their own R&D and setting up the industry to meet the demands government puts it on hold for a year.
There can be no better way than this AIS 140 roller-coaster ride, if one has to kill the industry!
Its not that the ride for safety features in public transport has been anywhere easy. Nirbhaya Fund had first come to MoRTH; later MHA fund was given to MHA; It was a cabinet decision to give funds- some 1400 crores to MoRTH; some 700 crores to MHA. In 2015, they said that all the funds that have been given earlier their administrative department is MWCD. Perhaps it was difficult to cancel the cabinet decision. Perhaps, nobody went back to cabinet, as it could become national issue of changing the decision on women safety. With MWCD, it was not clear, who was supposed to what? If the project was sanctioned and the money was there with the department, what did MWCD have do here? Eventually, after some time, MHA and MoRTH was asked to transfer the Nirbhaya Fund to MWCD. Maybe government wanted to involve Ministry of Women and Child Development for better insights into the women safety. But some allege- if you want to change or slow down the process/scheme, this is how to do.
The missed bus
Today, even after 5 years of Nirbhaya incident, our most widely used cab services- Ola and Uber, does not feature an emergency button. Or if it there it is not known or shown to the passengers. Whereas unconfirmed sources say there are FIRs against these shared mobility service providers almost every day, mostly hinged on the safety of the passenger availing the service. Though the complaint list goes beyond panic button to their quality of service, including rash driving, detours etc.
To gauge its probable impact, look at the CCTV in metro rail(Delhi) and around it, almost one-third of them would be dummy. But it creates a sense of fear amongst people as they do not know which one is real and which one are dummy. Due to which the metro station stays clean and there are minimal sexual harassment to commuters.
Similar situation could have been created with AIS 140 compliance in public transport vehicle. The passenger could have had a choice to not board the cab if the panic button is inactive. The dependency of passenger for their safe commute would not have been only limited to the option given through ‘Ride Hailing App’ by Ola/Uber.
Post the implication of 1st place of AIS 140, in a years’ time it was anticipated that all the public transport vehicles would have been equipped CCTVs.
Emergency response system- NERS to SERS & what we lost
Linked with AIS 140 but a separate project has been underway to monitor the panic button alerts. This was initially conceived to be under the National Emergency Response System, which MHA was preparing for emergency alerts. The NERS was considered to be a holistic approach which would have collated panic information from mobile phone(panic button being pressed three times), panic button associated with vehicle tracking device, and multiple apps like HIMMAT and others. For the vehicles, it was very clear that once you press the emergency button, the alert will go to two places: (1) To transport department informing them that the vehicle is in emergency state and (2) To police with a real-time location data.
Now the emergency no. of NERS i.e. 112 or that of state emergency response will send the data to that IP on real-time basis as soon as somebody press the panic button because transport department cannot act as security is not its responsibility.
Vehicle today generate huge amount of data. A central repository- NERS would have been a huge database for transport department, which could have been used to check violations; route planning; traffic control; and more. The NERS data to be kept by government would have benefitted general public in long run.
But, moving from the earlier vision to have centralised data base of all the emergency alerts and managing it, the MHA decided to have individual state implement the NERS at state level, with the integration of state level NERS data at a later date.
NERS is also changes to SERS State Emergency Response System); so it’s implementation has also been changed. With dial 100 under this state level NERS, it will no more be a national-level responsibility! These responsibilities will be with the state govt. Centre can give guidelines and tools. Centre could have said you do state emergency response system but at a national level.
In effect, if a bus leaves Jaipur for Delhi; and somebody presses panic button in Haryana/Gurgaon, then Gurgaon police should ideally be informed. What would Jaipur police would do in such case? Which maybe a situation with individual state implementing NERS.
There are apprehension that such a situation may leave a room for manual intervention, which will defeat the entire objective and perhaps kill the soul of NERS. Wonder if we we deliberately leaving rooms for people to escape?
NERS though continues, it has been diluted.
Just imagine your PAN data being a responsibility of state government or CIBIL report being accessed through state agency.
Government could have assigned the responsibility to any of large IT companies like HCL, Infosys, TCS or other who would not have struggled with the size or proportion of data, if that was the case to move it to state level.
With the NERS tracking the vehicles on road, it will have utility beyond emergency response. Permits to ply on certain stretch can be validated on real-time and alerts on detour being raised on real time. Permits for commercial vehicles and public transport could have been streamlined and their implementation reduced to location-data being validated on real time with respect to their route permit. Litigations related to route deviation or other issues could have been further reduced.
But, yes while this would have seen transition of authority to the faceless and emotionless information system.
AIS 140 | Industry Feedback
As per recent notification issued by MoRTH on April 18, 2018, all public service vehicles have been exempted from the provisions of rule 125H of the Central Motor Vehicles Rules, 1989 (of equipped with or fitted with vehicle location tracking device and one or more emergency buttons) upto the 1st day of April 2019. Some of the telematics industry members who had invested in making AIS 140 complaint devices and creating an inventory in anticipation of increased demand find themselves in a difficult situation. In such a scenario, it has become necessary for the government to consider the issues and concerns raised by the telematics industry. Telematics Wire has compiled the views and suggestions of some of the industry players on the MoRTH notification- perceived reasons for the extended deadline, impact on their business, expectation from Indian government and any other suggestions.
Shivalik Prasad, Director, MapmyIndia
MapmyIndiais India’s home-grown leading map data provider. It has also been providing APIs, GPS navigation and tracking service, location apps & GIS solutions.
Shivalik:We at MapmyIndia do not know the reason why the date has been extended. We have only seen the official communication from the Government Department. The impact on the business has been high as GPS tracking/telematics is a key part of the business and we were geared up with sales team, delivery teams, distribution network, inventory running into thousands of devices, activate cellular sim cards etc. We have already invested a large amount of monies into the project and now have to retract due to policy decision changes. We expect the GOI to review this decision and if they can activate the process before April 1st, 2019, it will be great for MMI (we will try and reduce losses). Also, it will start the movement of GPS/safety in public transportation which will benefit the citizens at large. Every day delayed is a loss extended.
The government should try and bring the date forward within this year and put up a proper process guideline for state level empanelment and activation. The idea of having GPS devices and emergency response for public transportation is a great thing. The quicker it can be made live, the better it is for citizens at large.
Sanjeev Agrawal, Business Area Director, Trimble
Trimble is a leading MNC in topographical survey and construction equipment.
Sanjeev:Looking at the massive fleets & deployment, MORTH had planned to implement through AIS140, I was afraid if this would happen. It is highly impractical to take the industry by surprise. The preparations, information update, execution, and planning was missing. It is very ambitious for this level of deployment unless industry is well informed on the solution, network, channels, registered vendors etc.
Perceived reasons are obvious, as there was no clarity available to many enforcing departments and authorities could clearly sense that this would be practically difficult to implement abruptly and might bring disruption to the mandatory public services. Such massive deployment will generally be reverse planned. It requires solution and products to be rolled out in advance and related departments should be trained, vendors should be pre-registered. Similarly, the solution needs to be evaluated on many aspects such as – how data shall be consumed, availability of the servers, role of government agencies etc.
A solution should be simple, and easy to implement on various models either in existing running vehicles and new vehicles, which are manufactured by OEM. We see that a particular type of telecom connectivity was asked, and its availability still is a challenge and hence the cost-effective solutions would have eased the massive deployment. Impact on business is huge like many OEM / Service Providers as well as we invested a lot in new product development, testing, buying inventory, setting up sales & service channels. This sudden change has resulted in a major negative impact on business and on the GPS / VTS solution industry.
My expectation is that the Government should review the full solution and their role and actionable items / Value for the vehicle owners / fleet operators as well out of AIS140 implementation. India is a very diverse country and has a large population which travels in Public Transport. We see that IRNSS Chip to be included from Oct 2018 onwards while the same is yet not available commercially and also at a reasonable price. If this to be implemented, I am afraid that there would be another challenge on availability and cost of hardware will shoot up 50% plus.
My suggestion would be for government to review the whole AIS140 and its role, expectation, practical aspects and usability. This includes the review of some technical aspects, which does not add value. Many of such deployments ends up becoming mere a compliance on regulation and most of such technology does not function for the longer period if not implemented properly and hence solution needs to be designed in such a manner that it would ensure uptime and value for the Fleet Operators / Owners and State & central government. I would again insist that the practical aspects should be considered. The implemented technology should bring value to all stakeholders, vehicle owners and at the same time, government should be able to utilize it to take actionable measures in case of any mishap.
Krishnamurthy V, CEO, EI Labs
EI Labs India designs and manufactures its products in Telematics and IoT space. Spark Minda acquired EI Labs in September 2017.
Krishnamurthy: It is a very welcome notification. The original deadline was neither practical nor thought through. The ecosystem was not ready at all. Even vendors with certifications were not production ready. The costing was not in place. A customer used to a sub 5K pricing for similar systems was being asked to shell out 30 – 40% more. The cost of certification is very high, and time taken for certification is also long. The embedded SIM as well as the IRNSS receivers were monopoly businesses, which is neither good for the customer nor the industry. Considering the impact on business, there would be loss of short term revenue, but it is good for long term. The government should include representatives from all parts of the ecosystem. Telematics device manufacturers should be suitably represented. Time line is fine, and a status check should be done mid-year. The extensions should not come after lapse of the dead line to prevent future shocks.
The standard should be reviewed. It should limit itself to certifying the safety aspects which is the intended reason. There is no reason to specify 4 digital inputs, when one will suffice. There is no reason to specify 2 digital outputs, when the use case is not defined. IRNSS is not key to the safety aspect at all and should be left out from the clause. There should be provision in the standard for device manufacturers to add other features on top of these base features to differentiate in the market. The dual profile of the SIM adds to the cost. Instead a single embedded SIM should suffice, and it should work under the emergency services even if the SIM is not paid for.
Rajiv Sharma, Director, KS TechnosoftPvt. Ltd
KS TechnosoftPvt. Ltd.,is into GIS based apps development & GPS vehicle tracking system.
Rajiv Sharma: We as provider of GPS Vehicle Tracking Systems are of the opinion that there is no need to have the devices certified by ARAI as this is a software product and not a technical product which directly effects the working of an automotive vehicle. The entire fleet management is done by software and hardware is just a tool to receive the data and transfer the same on to servers.Further there is no activity of the GPS tracker which increases/decreases the efficiency of the vehicle so why ARAI certifications.Further the cost of certifications is way high and very cumbersome.
Harman Singh Arora, CEO, Axestrack
AxesTrack founded by IIT/IIMpassouts,AxesTrackis a GPS based fleet management company.
Harman:The Government of India felt an acute need of its own software for Vehicle Tracking, unfortunately they were unable to deliver it as expected, implementing a system which cannot be used would result in declining profits for the fleet owners.
The delay definitely resulted in decreased sales expectations, moreover many people have made huge investment and it will affect ROI.
The Government should take concrete steps and be totally prepared to implement this on the next proposed date. The extended deadline should have been announced much before April 2018, if the same would have been done around Jan’18 the investment in developing products could be saved. The impact of this on the business would have been less had the decision been managed efficiently.
The implementation should be done after full research on technology, as the idea has a potential to completely revolutionize Indian transport industry.
Vineet Sharma, Co-Founder, fleetx.io
fleetx.io is a fleet management data platform and vehicle GPS tracking system in India.
Vineet: We, at fleetx.io, have been partnering with several manufacturers of AIS 140 compliant devices to ensure a smooth rollout w.e.f. 1st April 2018. We believe that despite the delay due to infrastructural shortcomings, the AIS 140 can prove to be a very effective measure for fleet safety. The current delay does however pose a challenge, as several of us have invested significantly in the AIS 140 rollout and if it stays delayed for longer, it will create a negative impact in the fleet industry. The government can take measures to start the rollout, for newer vehicles at least, in the major metropolitan areas and monitor the process. It will solve two problems, 1: There will be enough supply of compatible devices and 2: Fleet owners will start getting used to the process and get accustomed, without facing any big immediate impact on their business.