When they returned to India in late 2008 after a fairly long stint in the USA, what hit Brijraj Vaghani and Ravi Khemani most was the terrible condition of roads in Mumbai and the fact that neither cops nor drivers had any clue about the condition of roads up ahead. After struggling, swearing, grumbling and bearing with bad roads and bad traffic for a few years, they finally decided to act in 2011. Thus was born Traffline -- an app born out of sheer frustration. “Ravi and I were in the US for nine and six years respectively for our engineering courses,” says Vaghani. The two had first left Mumbai in 2002 -- a time when everyone still didn’t own large cars and roads still had more tar than potholes. It was also a time when FM radios hadn’t yet started giving the hourly traffic updates and electronic road signages warning motorists about diversions up ahead, hadn’t been born either. On their return, the friends were shocked to see the complete lack of traffic information about a particular route, at any timeof the day.
“In the US, we were accustomed to seeing traffic information. When I came back, I realised driving in the city is a herculean challenge. Also, during my growing up years, I was a South Mumbai resident, so the traffic situation didn't seem too bad. Having moved to Andheri on my return, I realised the pain of the over 10 million suburban residents,” says Vaghani with a sigh. “Mumbai was a city where I used to love driving. But now, I hatedriving.”
So what does Traffline do? Quite simply it helps a motorist find out the traffic situation in the area they reside, the expected travel time between two points and live information about accidents, road blocks and so on, through real-time traffic information. The first version of the app was released in October 2011, with very basic features. Prior to that, the two spent nearly a year on research (when they rolled out a basic version) and presented their idea to everyone from the Mumbai Police to private companies and state government officials. “Today, our user base is growing day by day,” says Vaghani.
That is no tall claim. The app has been downloaded by 100,000 users in just two years, and has a vibrant presence on social media. In fact the Traffline team’s help was sought by the Mumbai police department earlier this year to help ease traffic chaos on Ganapati visarjan day and more recently, the app has caught the eye of Matrix Partners India, which has invested in the product to take it across India.
We are intrigued by now as to how this real time app works. “I get intimated over the phone by the control rooms, on mobile apps and by common people as soon as something like an accident or a traffic snarl happens,” explains Vaghani. “The information is processed and comes to us with details like the latitude and longitude of the accident or traffic jam.” Verified and crosschecked in less than a minute, the traffic information then goes live on Twitter, Traffline website and mobile website. The data is laid out either in the form of a map or simple text and colour codes are used to indicate the severity of a traffic situation -- red for heavy congestion, pink for slow traffic and so on. The team’s sources for traffic information include vehicles with GPS (that send data, which is then processed and converted to speed information) and by helpful common citizens of whom, no surprises here, Mumbai has aplenty.
Besides Mumbai, Vaghani and his team are also privy to drivers’ and pedestrians’ habits on the roads of other metro cites like Delhi and Bangalore. For instance, Mumbai continues to have the dubious distinction of having the worst traffic jams. “The traffic is really bad in Bangalore during peak hours but in Mumbai, roads are perennially blocked. In addition to this, there are a lot more protests in the city,” adds Vaghani. The team’s future plans include taking the app across other cities (according to reports, the app will be made available in 10 more cities in 2014). “We want to improve user experience ... Also, people need to contribute more with traffic information,” he points out.
Link to Traffline App: http://bit.ly/WeQM2a | iOS : http://bit.ly/T5ERlj