Manila, Philippines — Tapping the power of Big Data is the key to solving the country’s traffic woes.
This is the shared sentiment among the panelists present at the launch of the OpenTraffic initiative on Tuesday, April 5. OpenTraffic—a joint project of ride-hailing platform Grab, The World Bank, and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC)—aims to address traffic congestion and lessen road safety issues through the use of real-time traffic data.
The Philippines is the first country where OpenTraffic was launched, but it has also been piloted in Indonesia and Vietnam already, revealed Vickram Cuttaree, program leader for sustainable development in the Philippines for The World Bank.
Through this initiative, traffic management agencies and city planners will now have access to real-time data to better manage traffic in the streets of Metro Manila and Cebu City.
Big Data for big problems
“The idea for partnering with Grab is to have the best data; then, the DOTC can use this data to implement measures that can ease traffic congestion,” said Cuttaree.
Transport undersecretary Rene Limcaoco said that data gathering alone accounts for almost two-thirds of the work done for traffic management. “It used to be that for the DOTC to get data, they do manual surveys, and the data could be outdated by the time the results come out,” added Limcaoco.
While OpenTraffic is primarily targeted to policy-makers and traffic managers, the panelists believe that it will eventually trickle down to the end-users. “Because the more time you spend in traffic, the less time you have for work, family, and your social activities,” added Cuttaree.
Easing in traffic congestion
“OpenTraffic uses Grab's GPS (global positioning system) data for the bigger purpose of easing traffic and ensuring road safety,” said Deevya Desai, regional head of public affairs for Grab. The open-source platform anonymizes raw traffic data and translates it to real-time data like speed, location, and road safety, among others.
“Traffic congestion won't go away, we can only lessen its duration through the analysis of these data,” such as peak hour analysis (which refers to the hours of the day most prone to heavy traffic) and travel time reliability (which studies if estimated travel times are consistent), said Holly Krambeck, senior transportation specialist for The World Bank.
Then, data culled from the OpenTraffic platform can either be sent as a link or exported into an Excel spreadsheet for easier safekeeping and analysis.
Improving road safety
Soon, traffic data culled from OpenTraffic will be integrated into another application called DRIVER, short for Data for Road Incident Visualization, Evaluation, and Reporting. DRIVER is for road incident recordings and analysis, which can then help city engineers zero in on accident-prone areas and assist first responders during accident response.
This platform is intended for road accident reporting, and already integrates the incident report forms used by the local police and traffic enforcers within the platform. It also maps out data on where accidents usually happen, and the changing patterns of road accidents across the city.