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Joburg wins TomTom kudos

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TomTom’s latest report has revealed that although Johannesburg is the most densely populated city in Africa, it has stood out to be one of the best in terms of traffic management.

TomTom has released the results of the TomTom Traffic Index (TTTI) 2017, the annual report detailing the cities around the world with the most traffic congestion. In a study of 390 cities around the world, Johannesburg – South Africa’s most densely populated city – has stood out for its implementation of effective traffic management systems across the city, earning special recognition from an international panel of traffic experts.

For the first time, this year, TomTom is celebrating those cities that deserve special recognition for their efforts to beat traffic congestion with the introduction of the TomTom Traffic Index awards.

Using data from 2016, the TomTom Traffic Index looks at the traffic congestion situation in 390 cities in 48 countries on six continents – from Rome to Rio, Singapore to San Francisco. TomTom works with nearly 19 trillion data points that have been accumulated over nine years. This is the sixth year of the TomTom Traffic Index.

Six cities have been chosen for special recognition by an international panel of traffic experts. Each expert nominated three cities and subsequently all experts voted to determine the award-winning cities from the nominated cities. Along with Johannesburg, winners include Moscow, Stockholm and Rio de Janeiro. The full list of winners can be found here: www.tomtom.com/trafficindex/awards.

While Johannesburg has long been considered South Africa’s most traffic-congested city, the TTTI shows a marked improvement in the biggest metropolitan municipality’s ranking since 2009. Johannesburg has also surpassed Cape Town’s traffic congestion rating on the Index, ranking 70th globally with Cape Town positioned in 48th place.

Johannesburg has, however, experienced a 3% increase in traffic congestion since 2015 and currently sits at a congestion level of 30%. Traffic congestion has also worsened in Cape Town by 5%, to a new average level of 35%.

“Infrastructure development is a major contributing factor to Johannesburg’s improved ranking in the TomTom Traffic Index,” says Megan Bruwer, Project Coordinator for the Stellenbosch Smart Mobility Laboratory. “The Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project, Open Road Tolling and numerous ITS applications implemented along freeway corridors have also had a positive impact on traffic congestion, not to mention the establishment of the Gautrain.”

Global rankings

Cities that are experiencing the worst traffic congestion as per the TTTI global rankings include Mexico City (66%), Bangkok (61%), Jakarta (58%), Chongqing (52%) and Bucharest (50%), making up the top five most congested cities in the world.

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In Europe, Bucharest (50%) knocked Moscow (44%) off last year’s top spot, with Saint Petersburg (41%), London (40%) and Marseille (40%) making up the top five.

North America’s top five most congested cities remained the same as the previous year – Mexico City (66%), Los Angeles (45%), San Francisco (39%), Vancouver (39%), New York (35%) – although congestion levels were up across the board.

Looking at TomTom’s historical data, traffic congestion is up by 23% globally since 2008 and 10% on 2015. The TomTom Traffic Index also provides useful comparative information between South Africa’s major metropolitan municipalities, with both Johannesburg and Pretoria indicating a decrease in traffic congestion between 2009 and 2012 and maintaining a relatively even traffic congestion rating in the following three years.

“Throughout South Africa, TomTom is empowering traffic authorities and key decision makers at all levels of government with highly-accurate historical and real-time insights into traffic flows and incidents,” explains Etienne Louw, TomTom South Africa’s Managing Director.

“Coupled with the real-time traffic information provided by TomTom’s navigation solutions, existing road infrastructure can be utilised with increased efficiency to counter rising traffic congestion.”

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Samsung unleashes the beast

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Most new smartphone releases of the past few years have been like cat-and-mouse games with consumers and each other. It has been as if morsels of cheese are thrown into the box to make it more interesting: a little extra camera here, a little more battery there, and incremental changes to size, speed (more) and weight (less). Each change moves the needle of innovation ever-so-slightly. Until we find ourselves, a few years later, with a handset that is revolutionary compared to six years ago, but an anti-climax relative to six months before.

And then came Samsung. Probably stung by the “incremental improvement” phrase that has become almost a cliché about new Galaxy devices, the Korean giant chose to unleash a beast last week.

The new Galaxy Note 9 is not only the biggest smartphone Samsung has ever released, but one of the biggest flagship handsets that can still be called a phone. With a 6.4” display, it suddenly competes with mini-tablets and gaming consoles, among other devices that had previously faced little contest from handsets.

It offers almost ever cutting edge introduced to the Galaxy S9 and S9+ smartphones earlier this year, including the market-leading f1.5 aperture lens, and an f2.4. telephoto lens, each weighing in at 12 Megapixels. The front lens is equally impressive, with an f1.7 aperture – first introduced on the Note 8 as the widest yet on a selfie camera.

So far, so S9. However, the Note range has always been set apart by its S Pen stylus, and each edition has added new features. Born as a mere pen that writes on screens, it evolved through the likes of pressure sensitivity, allowing for artistic expression, and cut-and-paste text with translation-on-the-fly.

(Click here or below to read more about the Samsung Galaxy S Pen stylus) Samsung Galaxy S9 Features)

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SA ride permit system ‘broken’

Despite the amendments to the National Land Transport Act, ALON LITS, General Manager, Uber in Sub Saharan Africa, believes that many premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

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The spirit and intention of the amendments to the National Land Transport Act No 5  (NLTA), 2009 put forward by the Ministry of Transport are to be commended. It is especially pleasing that these amendments include ridesharing and e-hailing operators and drivers as legitimate participants in the country’s public transport system, which point to government’s willingness to embrace the changes and innovation taking place in the country’s transport industry.

However, there are aspects of the proposed amendments that are, at best, premature given that the necessary, well-functioning systems and processes are not yet in place to make these regulatory changes viable.

Of particular concern are the significant financial penalties that will need to be paid by ridesharing and e-hailing companies whose independent operators are found to be transporting passengers without a legal permit issued by the relevant local authority. These fines can be as high as R100 000 per driver operating without a permit. Apart from being an excessive penalty it is grossly unfair given that a large number of local authorities don’t yet have functioning permit issuing systems and processes in place.

The truth is that the operating permit issuance system in South Africa is effectively broken. The application and issuance processes for operating licenses are fundamentally flawed and subject to extensive delays, sometimes over a year in length.  This situation is exacerbated by the fact that it is very difficult for applicants whose permit applications haven’t yet been approved to get reasons for the extensive delays on the issuing of those permits.

Uber has had extensive first-hand experience with the frustratingly slow process of applying for these permits, with drivers often having to wait months and, in some cases more than a year, for their permits.

Sadly, there appears to be no sense of urgency amongst local authorities to prioritise fixing the flawed permit issuing systems and processes or address the large, and growing, backlogs of permit applications. As such, in order for the proposed stringent permit enforcement rules to be effective and fair to all role players, the long-standing issues around permit issuance first need to be addressed. At the very least, before the proposed legislation amendments are implemented, the National Transport Ministry needs to address the following issues:

  1. Efficient processes and systems must be put in place in all local authorities to allow drivers to easily apply for the operating permits they require
  2. Service level agreements need to be put in place with local authorities whereby they are required to assess applications and issue permits within the prescribed 60-day period.
  3. Local authorities need to be given deadlines by which their current permit application backlogs must be addressed to allow for faster processing of new applications once the amendments are promulgated.

If the Transport Ministry implements the proposed legislation amendments before ensuring that these permit issuance challenges are addressed, many drivers will be faced with the difficult choice of either having to operate illegally whilst awaiting their approved permits and risking significant fines and/or arrest, or stopping operations until they receive their permits, thereby losing what is, for many of them, their only source of income.

As such, if the Ministry of Transport is not able to address these particular challenges, it is only reasonable to ask it to reconsider this amendment and delay its implementation until the necessary infrastructure is in place to ensure it does not impact negatively on the country’s transport industry. The legislators must have been aware of the challenges of passing such a significant law, as the Amendment Bill allows for the Minister to use his discretion to delay implementation of provisions for up to 5 years.

Fair trade and healthy competition are the cornerstones of any effective and growing economy. However, these clauses (Section 66 (7) and Section 66A) of the NLTA amendment, as well as the proposal that regulators be given authority to define the geographic locations or zones in which vehicles may operate, are contrary to the spirit of both. As a good corporate citizen, Uber is committed to supplementing and enhancing South Africa’s national transport system and contributing positively to the industry. If passed into law without the revisions suggested above, these new amendments will limit our business and many others from playing the supportive roles we all can, and should, in growing the SA transport and tourism industries as well as many other key economic sectors.

What’s more, if passed as they currently stand, the amendments will effectively limit South African consumers from having full access to the range of convenient transport options they deserve; which has the potential to harm the reputation and credibility of the entire transport industry.

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