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Malaysian transport ministry calls for use of technology to solve traffic challenges

The Malaysian government wants to tap telematics, IoT and other nascent technologies to improve road safety and ease traffic congestion

The Malaysian transport ministry is open to collaborating with private companies that utilise technology to advance its transportation reform agenda, says its top official.

Speaking to the media after the launch of the Digi Telecommunications Road Safety Programme 2019 in Kuala Lumpur on 8 August 2019, transport minister Anthony Loke said the Malaysian government is keen to work with anyone who can provide it with innovative solutions to create sustainable changes that improve the quality of life and safety for all road users.

Digi’s Road Safety Programme touts the use of telematics to help commercial vehicle drivers become better, safer drivers. Digi claims its solution is able to help improve road safety by monitoring driver behaviour and collecting vehicle data such as location, speed, acceleration, braking and cornering. The aim is to use the data points to help commercial vehicle owners and drivers make more informed decisions.

“The pie is huge and telematics is only the beginning as there are a lot of other possibilities [with technology] that the government is keen to work with private companies to address,” said Loke. “For example, I want to see more integration of data collected not just between private drivers and companies, but shared with society at large.”

Loke said technology can be an effective enabler for better enforcement and safety compliance on roads. Opportunities afforded by such technologies to further improve safety performance on roads must be seized, he added.

The minister urged companies to work with the government to build on what telematics can already do, including the use of the internet of things (IoT) to provide valuable data to city planners.

Supported by smart programmes, IoT data can be used to further improve traffic flow and service performance, an area that the transport ministry is looking into. This could include the sharing of Malaysian-based open data platforms, so that challenges such as traffic congestion can be minimised and quality of life improved, he added.

Asked how exactly he envisions IoT to help with transportation problems, Loke said the key is to gather enough information and to be able to share that information as widely and as securely as possible so that it can be used for the benefit of society.

“For years we have talked about resolving traffic congestion by building more roads, but if we do not have good traffic management fed by smart information, you can never resolve traffic congestion,” he stressed.

Real life benefits

Citing statistics from Malaysian police, the Malaysian transport ministry said there were 802,523 motor vehicles involved in road crashes in 2017. Out of these crashes, 80% were related to risky driving, speeding and fatigue, according to the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (Miros).

Despite improved road safety statistics over the past two years, the transport ministry believes there is still more that can be done to curb fatalities and serious injuries on Malaysian roads.

Loke, however, cautioned that technology is only the beginning as there is a need to cultivate the right mindset to act on the data collected and improve the way road users behave.

“We have to begin by educating those behind the wheel on the importance of road safety not just in their lives or in their company’s best interests, but also for the people around them,” he said in his keynote address. “The Digi Road Safety Programme is a great initiative to start with as it targets commercial transport vehicles.”

For years we have talked about resolving traffic congestion by building more roads, but if we do not have good traffic management fed by smart information, you can never resolve traffic congestion
Anthony Loke, Malaysian transport minister

Praveen Rajan, Digi’s chief digital officer, said the company is working to improve road safety with vehicle telematics that is powered by its iFleet solution. iFleet is Digi’s fleet management solution which provides real-time vehicle and driver behaviour information.

“Studies have revealed that the use of telematics can influence reduced accident rates among commercial vehicle drivers,” he claimed. “It does this by enabling owners to plan better routes and schedules, recommending driver training [to poorly performing drivers] and implementing disciplinary action where needed [to errant drivers].”

Ng Shern Yau, chief operating officer of Logistics Worldwide Express, said one of the main reasons why drivers in the logistic industry tend to speed is because they are afraid they cannot deliver packages on time, which affects their key performance indicators (KPIs).

“With this fleet management system, we are able to provide drivers with better route planning so that they can optimise the time spent on the road and improve their productivity rather than miss their KPIs,” he said.

Lim Chern Chuen, director of Handal Indah, owner and operator of Causeway Link, a bus operator that plies Johor city centre and neighbouring Singapore, claimed that using telematics has helped the company change its culture.

“We’ve been able to use data to incentivise our drivers to not rush by giving them alternative routes via telematics. This is very important for a public transportation company as it gives our customers the assurance to keep using us,” he said, adding that telematics has also helped it cement safety as second nature among its drivers.

In conjunction with Digi’s Road Safety Programme 2019, the company has pledged 10 million ringgit (US$2.4m) to help the first 1,000 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that sign up before 31 December 2019 with a grant. Each successful grant applicant will be awarded 10,000 ringgit in the form of credits and will be used to equip its fleet with GPS tracking, Wi-Fi and video capabilities.

Digi will also arrange defensive driving techniques for participating drivers in a bid to help them prevent road crashes, as well as offer Digi-related prizes to the 10 safest drivers from each qualifying applicant.

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