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New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Renault-Nissan Technology and Business Centre, India (RNTBCI) for organising a one-year-long hackathon, under which two projects will seek to use technology to reduce road accidents. Called ‘Hackcidents’, the programme will facilitate development of low-cost technologies to prevent fatalities caused by public buses.

Under the hackathon, IIT-M’s Connected Intelligent Urban Transportation laboratory will build data-driven technologies to make public transport facilities in Tamil Nadu safer. The first project under it will equip public buses in select districts of Tamil Nadu with sensors, to collect data on why fatal accidents occur.

The second project will seek to use this data in developing “low-cost technologies", which will then be used in public buses in areas such as Chennai, Kanchipuram and Tiruvallur in Tamil Nadu.

A joint statement by IIT-M and RNTBCI states that over 10% of all fatal accidents were caused by public buses in Chennai in 2019 — a figure that is twice the average of the rest of India.

Kapil Saratkar, assistant commissioner of Chennai City Traffic Police, said, “Around 4,500 traffic police are deployed by Tamil Nadu Police to manage the traffic in the city. However, there is a manpower shortage and these policemen have to face several difficulties in managing the traffic in the city."

To help address this, V. Kamakoti, director of IIT-M said that the data generated from the initiative can not just help bring forth short term results, but also “enhance entrepreneurship ideas."

The outcomes of this entire programme would be released in a year’s time, and will be handled by IIT-M’s independent student body ‘Centre For Innovation’ upon completion.

In October 2021, researchers at IIT Bombay and Guwahati initiated a research project that sought to use publicly available road infrastructure data and geographical information to give contextualised speed warnings in vehicles, in order to reduce overspeeding-related accidents.

Since July 2019, the Indian government has mandated speed warnings in all consumer vehicles in the country, which the researchers at the above-mentioned IITs had deemed to be a low-efficiency, one-size-fits-all attempt to improve road safety.

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