Smart solutions needed for Malaysia’s traffic woes

by DR DZUKEFLI ABDUL LATIFF / Pic by Bloomberg

THE recent school holidays saw choc-a-bloc traffic on major routes in Kuala Lumpur even during non-peak hours. Prior to that, traffic has been dreadful as more people return to their workplace post-Covid, while many commuters still avoid using public transport due to health concerns.

Peak hours are a nightmare for every city folk, especially those residing in the Klang Valley, as they spent more than two hours on road each day or roughly 44 hours a month, trapped in traffic and what more with the evening rain daily. This would then sum up to more than 100 hours wasted a year for typical driver to commute to work daily.

The congestion may be attributed to the affordable car ownership as Malaysia is relatively a high car-dependent country in South-East Asia, poor public transportation system and its connectivity.

Building more roads, expressways and increasing the capacity of public transport do little to alleviate traffic congestion. 

What Malaysia needs is smart solutions to address Malaysia’s traffic woes, not by building more roads. Citing the words of the former mayor of Bogota Enrique Peñalosa who once said, “trying to solve traffic problems by building more roads is like putting out a fire with gasoline”.

What Malaysia needs is a smart solution to address the ailing traffic congestion. Smart solutions here means utilising the advent of technology through artificial intelligence (AI) to solve nagging traffic problems.

We utilises AI-powered real-time traffic updates daily via Google Maps and Waze to get the latest updates on the traffic conditions — ie traffic congestions, flood, roadblocks, accidents and road closure in our daily travels, while rerouting us to other alternative routes.

TM One, a business solution arm of Telekom Malaysia Bhd has developed a system that programme traffic lights to respond to real-time data collection via cameras and sensors. 

This AI traffic management is poised to redesign city’s transportation, while relieving traffic bottlenecks. The system is being implemented in several testing beds such as Cyberjaya, Kelantan, Pengerang and Penang.

The implementation should cover the entire Klang Valley, smaller cities and towns that are clogged with congestions. This does not only lessen traffic congestion and time taken to travel, but also lessens carbon emissions by reducing the time spent in traffic.

MyDigital Catalytic Projects Task Force (CPTF) had recently called for the utilisation of smart solutions for the transportation and logistics sector to enhance road safety, reduce congestion and also to provide a seamless mobility experience among road users. PLUS Expressways Bhd, in partnership with Celcom Axiata Bhd, will be leveraging the CPTF platform to identify and address issues related to technology implementation in ensuring safer highways for the public.

At the very least, the government is doing something to address the traffic congestion in the country. Yet, what is needed is an integrated real-time traffic platform that does not only contains traffic conditions of the congestion in major roads, highways, but also on the movement of public transportation like buses, KTM trains, LRTs and MRTs.

This could be done similar to Singapore’s  Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) which uses sensors, traffic and control systems, and data analytics to maximise road network efficiency, manage traffic flow and make the roads safer.

The ITS has adopted various systems as mentioned in Singapore’s Land Transport Authority (LTA) website. This include: 

  Expressway Monitoring Advisory System (EMAS) — an intelligent incident management tool that manages traffic along their expressways by providing travel time information on signboards as well as detection  of accidents and vehicle breakdowns.

  Green Link Determining (GLIDE) system — controls all traffic signals in Singapore by adjusting the green time as traffic flow changes. The system detects the presence of vehicles and pedestrians at the traffic light junctions and uses logic and algorithms to analyse real-time traffic data.

  Green Man+ —  allocates a longer green man time for the elderly and Persons with Disabilities (PWD).

  Junction Electronic Eyes (J-Eyes) system — 400 surveillance cameras have been placed at major traffic junctions to monitor traffic conditions and verify real-time incidents. This then enables the LTA to make informed decisions to execute appropriate and effective action plans to manage incidents.

  Parking Guidance System (PGS) — delivers real-time information through 29 roadside electronic information panels so you can view carpark availability even while driving. The information is also available on various digital platforms such as OneMotoring and mobile application.

  Traffic Message Channel (TMC) — delivers real-time traffic information to motorists via mobile phones, portable navigation devices (PNDs) and in-vehicle navigation systems, for dynamic route navigation.

It is vital for Malaysia to take serious note and action to address traffic congestion in our country though technology and AI.  Traffic congestion hold an enormous impact on our economy, health and environment, although the costs are often underestimated or misunderstood.

Dr Dzukefli Abdul Latiff