Browsing 'qmic' News

Chantelle D'Mello / Doha News

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

Commuters in Qatar spent an average of 4.5 days on the roads last year, thanks to traffic congestion.

Up seven hours from the year before, the wasted time equates to an economic loss of about QR6 billion, or about 1 percent of the country’s GDP.

That’s according to the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC), which released its second annual Qatar Traffic Report this week.

The report tries to quantify the impact traffic jams have on the country using more than a billion data records.

These are collected through QMIC’s network of traffic sensors, cars outfitted with GPS devices and information from users of its iTraffic (Masarak) mobile app.

Worst locations and times

QMIC highlighted several routes that are particularly congested during the morning rush hour.

Ameer Abdul Razak/Flickr

Photo for illustrative purposes only.

According to the Gulf Times, they include:

  • Al Sadd Intersection-Olympic Roundabout;
  • Musheireb Interchange, B Ring Road;
  • Onaiza Intersection-Lekhwiya Intersection, Al Markhiya Street;
  • Umm Ghuwalina Intersection-Al Sharq Intersection, C-Ring Road; and
  • Al Waab Intersection to Al Bustan St.

During the evening, the most congested areas were:

  • Environment Roundabout Duhail Intersection, Al Khafji Street;
  • To Television Roundabout, Ahmed Bin Ali Street;
  • Al Sadd Intersection-Olympic Roundabout, Jawaan Street;
  • To Al Waab Intersection, Al Bustan Street; and
  • Lejbailat Intersection-Television Roundabout, Al Jamiaa Street.

The worst day of the week for traffic is Sunday mornings, and the most congested month last year was October.

However, traffic jams appeared to improve as the year went on. This suggests that newly completed road projects are starting to help traffic flow, QMIC said.

Three more years

According to the Peninsula, traffic officials sought to reassure residents about the new data, saying conditions are only temporary.

Qatar Rail

Doha Metro rendering

The newspaper quoted Traffic Department chief Brig. Mohammed Saad Al Kharji as saying things would improve within the next three years, after all major road projects are completed.

He added:

“The study is shocking for sure, but I believe the real figures will come when all roads are opened, railway projects commenced and public transport expanded.

We have to be patient for the time being. I used to give an example to explain this situation. For example someone is sick and the doctor told him that he needs surgery and it will take a month for recovery. The patient will undergo the operation and wait for recovery.”

Thoughts?

Gulf Mall traffic

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Gulf Mall traffic

Heading out on the weekend but worried about where to park? Soon, there will be an app to tell Qatar resident just how much parking is available at Souq Waqif, in West Bay and other popular places around town, operators have announced.

To cope with the frustrating parking situation in many parts of the country, some venues in Qatar are beginning to install high-tech features such as sensors that detect when a spot is occupied and make it easier for drivers to find a space by illuminating empty spots with a green light.

This week, experts said the next step is combining all the information collected by different parking lots and making it publicly available to make life easier for motorists so they know where to go.

“I rarely go to City Center (Mall), because I have this impression that City Center is (always) full,” said Adnan Abu-Dayya, the CEO of the Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC). “But the reality is, a lot of time there is capacity. But we don’t have access to that information.”

Abu-Dayya was speaking at the opening session of the Smart Parking Qatar conference yesterday.

There, experts are discussing solutions to some of the transportation challenges that have accompanied Qatar’s rapid growth in population, which is overwhelmingly concentrated in urban areas and has led to shortages of parking spaces in busy areas during peak periods.

For Abu-Dayya, “smart parking” can mean using real-time data to better match supply and demand.

“We can park our cars in the least amount of time, with the least amount of pain and frustration,” he said, adding that reducing congestion around parking lots also cuts down on vehicle emissions and improves safety.

High-tech parking lots

Abu-Dayya helped launched QMIC – a joint venture owned by Qatar University, Qatar Foundation and the Qatar Science and Technology Park – in 2009 to develop technology that improves road safety, makes transportation networks more efficient and helps companies better manage their vehicle fleets.

Dr. Adnan Abu-Dayya

Peter Kovessy / Doha News

Dr. Adnan Abu-Dayya

The following year, QMIC released Masarak iTraffic, an app that provides navigation and road congestion information in Qatar.

Researchers are adding new features to the platform, including parking information. Abu-Dayya said QMIC is aggregating parking information collected from the new Doha Exhibition and Convention Center, the recently built Souq Waqif underground lots as well as several shopping centers.

“Our objective is to make this a guide for (parking lot) users in Qatar,” he said. At the moment, however, QMIC is working to improve usability of data and waiting to add many more parking lots into its system.

In addition to making it easier for motorists to find empty spaces, Abu-Dayya said he hopes collecting information on parking lot utilization will help government planners better understand where new lots are needed.

The conference also featured several companies pitching high-tech solutions to fit more vehicles into new and existing parking lots.

Smart parking at villaggio mall.

Courtesy of MCTS

Smart parking at villaggio mall.

Last year, Villaggio Mall tested a vertical “rotary parking” structure that could hold up to 16 vehicles in the equivalent of two conventional parking lot spaces.

While the fate of that particular project remains unclear, other firms have pitched other systems such parking lots that uses robotic platforms to move empty vehicles into parking stalls, packing them more tightly together than in a traditional garage.

Elsewhere in Qatar, technology firms are outfitting existing parking lots with new features, such as the option to pay by mobile phone and assistance in finding one’s vehicle.

Thoughts?

Lord Jim/Facebook

In a bid to reduce fatalities and incidents of distracted driving in Qatar, a locally-based company has launched several apps that voluntarily lock a motorist’s mobile phone while a vehicle is moving.

Taking notice of the Salamtek initiative, developed by Qatar Mobility Innovations Center (QMIC), one of the country’s largest insurance providers is considering using the new technology to reward safe drivers here with lower premiums.

Road accidents are a leading cause of death in Qatar, and the country’s top traffic police officer has said that the majority of serious collisions occur when the driver is using a mobile phone.

Car accident

ARWCheek / Flickr

Brig. Mohammed Saad Al-Kharji, the director-general of Qatar’s traffic department, told Doha News on the sidelines of today’s app launch that investigators who are probing major accidents routinely reach out to telecom providers Ooredoo and Vodafone to find out if the driver’s mobile phone was being used at the time of the crash.

“(In the case of) more than 80 percent of the accidents, they are using their mobile,” Al-Kharji said.

QMIC officials emphasized that while there is no single solution that will motivate or force drivers to stop using cell phones while driving, they are confident Salamtek will make Qatar’s roads safer.

“This is a complicated problem,” said QMIC chairperson Abdulla Al-Talib. “There is no way that anyone can come up with a complete solution for it. We are trying our best. Saving one life is worth the efforts we are putting forward.”

Salamtek

QMIC, which is headquartered in the Qatar Science and Technology Park, began looking at ways of tackling distracted driving roughly two years ago, launching its first mobile app in June 2013.

Salamtek-Personal-English

QMIC

It has since developed a portfolio of apps and services as part of its Salamtek Initiative, which involves software that locks a cell phone when a vehicle is moving above a certain speed, logging missed calls and messages and sending automatic replies to those calling a Salamtek-locked phone.

A “beacon” can be installed on the driver’s side of the vehicle and detect whether the phone is in close proximity and being used by the operator or has been passed to a passenger and can be used safely.

While a basic “personal” version can be downloaded for free to Android devices from the Google Play store, QMIC also markets enterprise and family versions of its software that allow users to remotely monitor the mobile phone use of their children or employees while they are driving.

QMIC plans to release all three versions for iPhones in the coming months.

Today’s event was intended to unveil the “Salamtek Consortium,” which is a group of organizations that includes QMIC, the Ministry of Interior’s traffic department and others that are working together to tackle distracted driving in Qatar.

The consortium also includes the Qatar Insurance Co., which can give motorists a financial incentive to use of QMIC’s technology and profit from safer drivers.

Black box

P.E. Alexander, the CEO of Qatar Insurance, said that when his firm learned of QMIC’s work, “we thought we must definitely be a part of it.”

“We have an ulterior motive as an insurer. If we can see the number of accidents reduced, it improves our bottom line. There is also the corporate social responsibility, (resulting in) less people getting injured, less property damage.”

The insurer, which covers between 150,000 and 200,000 local drivers, recently completed a pilot project with QMIC on a more advanced piece of technology.

Doha traffic

(CC) Sam Agnew

For three and a half months this year, some 40 motorists voluntarily offered to equip their vehicles with sensors that tracked how quickly they accelerated, decelerated, took corners and how fast they drove.

That data was transmitted back to QMIC, which analyzed it and produced a score rating their driving for the insurance company. To address privacy concerns, all the information about the vehicle’s location and movements stayed with QMIC. Only the final score was shared with the insurance company.

At the end of the pilot project, the safest driver received a trip to Dubai as a prize. When applied on a wider scale, however, the prize would be lower insurance premiums for safe drivers, as opposed to those who exhibit reckless behavior behind the wheel.

“The idea is that the safer you drive, the more you reduce your bill. We’re looking at that,” Omar Bondogji, QMIC’s head of marketing and business development, told Doha News.

He said he’s also hoping that QMIC’s fellow consortium members would also eventually offer discounts, prizes or other incentives for users of its Salamtek apps to encourage its use.

More enforcement

Lubaib Gazir

In the meantime, the Ministry of Interior said it also plans to boost its enforcement efforts of laws prohibiting the use of mobile phones while driving and other regulations.

The traffic department’s Al-Kharji said many new officers would be completing their training in the coming weeks and would soon be patrolling Qatar’s roads and highways, as well as be stationed on foot at certain intersections.

When asked, he was unable to say how many new officers are being added to the department’s ranks, but said they would have a visible presence.

“You will see it,” Al-Kharji said. “We have to reduce the (number of) accidents.”

Thoughts?