It is a common sighting in Bangalore of ambulances stuck in long lines of traffic. Even if there are commuters on the road who wish to do something about it, there is very little that they can do as every inch of space is covered by vehicles around. I myself have been witness to an ambulance get stuck on airport road, desperately trying to reach the Manipal hospital. I have seen ambulances stuck on 100 ft road in IndiraNagar, MG Road and lot of other places. Most of the ambulance services in Bangalore, I am sure have a central network. I am believing that the ambulances try to find the nearest hospital and head towards that (if that is not the case, then that is news to me). In such a case, there must be a central network monitoring the various positions of the ambulances in the city.
Add the case of the traffic, which is, generally chaotic, but even then can be controlled (the traffic lights and the traffic policemen, they are for that – to ensure controlled chaos !). Now, what baffles me is why can’t the policemen deployed on those roads (generally major intersections) not notified about the ambulance. I am unaware as to if that is a bureaucratic problem or a technical one (this is very unlikely). Assuming there are reasons (and valid ones at that) for the police to be not disturbed of their duties by ambulances, their surprise in seeing an ambulance on the road they are manning, is understandable. In such a case one can empathize with their helplessness too.
FM radio in Bangalore is famous. Heck, it is the source of entertainment for most of the people commuting by company provided transportation. And the FM radio has been put to a good use of notifying commuters on major intersections about traffic jams. 91.1, 91.9, 98.3 all these major channels have a sort of a traffic check during the rush hours. What I am suggesting is that this feature be extended to notify commuters on a particular intersection that there is an ambulance heading on their road. Here is a simple flow chart that I can think of to help [it can work for both the paths taken in the graph, I take the example of the path once the ambulance picks the patient and is heading towards the hospital]: ambulance nerve center is notified of the pick of the patient -> ambulance driver provides with the possible route (s)he is planning to take -> nerve center is monitoring the FM channels for traffic jams -> finds that one of the roads is jammed -> either can notify the ambulance driver for an alternate route -> (or) sends a SoS message to the FM channels -> FM channel op then goes on air about the incoming ambulance -> atleast some of the people might make some way for the ambulance to pass, and heck, a FM listening policeman might hear the message and make way for the ambulance to pass.
There are flaws in my proposal. For one, will the FM channels be willing to spare precious money generating airtime for airing messages like this. Second, even if the commuters on the road in question hear the message on-air, they might be able to do very little in trying to provide way for the ambulance to pass. Atleast the larger 4 wheelers (cars, tempos, buses) which consume most of the real estate of the road, be asked to move.
Its like solving a problem using multiple co-operating agents. If each of the individual vehicles (bots) made some way for the incoming vehicle, then may be the problem can be solved faster, rather than waiting for a single police-person serially make traffic for you. This problem can definitely be parallelized, and hence I think using bots will help provide a solution for it a lot faster than a serial (single police-person) trying to make way for the incoming ambulance.
It is appalling that, we still are lagging the basic services for emergencies. What I am suggesting might not be the ideal solution, but I am sure there are enough people on the roads in Bangalore, who are willing to try to make way once they know there is an ambulance / fire-engine heading onto their road. Part of the solution is human, part software and part policy making. At the very least, I think it is worth trying to check this.
Also, if someone has the data regarding the traffic congestions and emergencies in Bangalore, I will really appreciate if they can share it with me. Also, for the statistic collection people, how does one gather data for something like this ? How does one measure the average traffic density in a particular area. Do you sit and start counting the vehicles passing a signal in a given interval of time and then calculate the throughput ? Any links / papers for this that you can provide will be very much appreciated.