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Guided navigation for public buses

No more detours when rescheduling

Transport companies are increasingly using changing drivers who are unfamiliar with the area. This makes guided navigation necessary even for public buses with fixed routes. In large cities in particular, there are also frequent changes to routes due to closures, road works or accidents. A specialist for modular system solutions for local public transport has therefore supplemented its on-board computer software with a navigation solution to meet the new requirements. Through interfaces to the timetable planning system, the route information of the lines can be easily transferred and through interfaces to the control centre, rescheduling is easy and flexible.

ATRON electronic GmbH in Markt Schwaben near Munich develops modular system solutions for local public transport. It is active throughout Europe and has branches in Dortmund and Leipzig as well as in Bronschhofen (Switzerland), Linköping (Sweden) and Zagreb (Croatia). Its range of complete solutions for transport companies extends from ticket vending machines and on-board computers to sales background systems and control centre systems. The on-board computer was originally developed for driver-operated sales, but is now the communication centre between vehicle, peripherals, driver and background system as well as control centre.

Demand for guided navigation for public buses

There is a growing need for guided navigation for drivers: Transport companies have problems finding drivers at all. They change frequently and are usually no longer familiar with the area. Where in the past it was superfluous to provide a driver with route guidance, as they were usually familiar with the area, it is now often necessary.

In addition to precise routing, communication with the control centre is also becoming increasingly important. Especially in large cities, the need for rescheduling is great: if there are obstructions such as accidents or route closures, the control centre has to reschedule the route of a line. It can also happen that drivers and vehicles are moved ad hoc and assigned a new route, for example if a bus has broken down and a priority line has to be served. The communication usually took the form of text or voice instructions. However, both formats are problematic as soon as several vehicles are affected. It costs the dispatchers a lot of time to brief each driver again verbally. And text instructions quickly reach a great length; in addition, language barriers can lead to comprehension problems. If the drivers are not familiar with the location, they are not helped by the mention of street names.

Atron RouteGuide Bordcomputer mit MapTrip Navigation für Linienbusse
ATRON Route Guide on-board computer with integrated MapTrip GPS navigation

ATRON Route Guide solves this problem of public transport: The software of the on-board computer is supplemented with the navigation software MapTrip of the provider infoware GmbH from Bonn.

Waypoints and stop coordinates are imported from the timetable planning tools into the application so that the line routes are available.

Guided navigation supports the driver by means of acoustic and visual indications on a road map when travelling the route of a line (so-called reference route), which usually extends from the initial stop to the final stop.

In the event of disruptions that make it necessary to reschedule the route, the control centre transmits the new reference route to the affected vehicles: for this purpose, the waypoints and modified stops of the new reference route of the line journey are loaded onto the on-board computer. The map material is stored in the system – only the route changes, i.e. the chain of GPS points that make it up.

Thus, the new route is given to the driver and displayed on the computer so that he can drive it. The display on the on-board computer is supported as classic navigation with route arrows and announcements.

Solution integrated by the navigation specialist

As a full-range supplier, ATRON offers hardware and software solutions for public transport and also works with partners for this purpose: For example, components for the payment function with debit and credit cards are integrated into the products.

The special field of navigation was also to be covered by a specialist’s product. During the selection process, discussions and demonstrations took place with various providers. “We had the impression that infoware, with their experience with reference routes, came closest to our needs,” says product manager Horst Sander. The company equips public utilities and waste collection companies with navigation systems – that’s why the step to using them in buses as another use case was not far away.

The decision to purchase the navigation system was made at the end of 2018. The Route Guide is currently in the test phase. The plan is to roll out this software function to the first customers in the middle of the year. Several transport companies have already purchased this functionality.

Interface to the timetable system already available

The great advantage of the solution is that the reference routes are per se available in the background system in which the timetables are managed. The interface to import, process and distribute timetables to the on-board computers is available and does not have to be reprogrammed.

Other navigation systems lack this interface to the background system – they cannot easily import reference routes from different sources.

The Route Guide is not only suitable for the on-board computers of public transport buses, but also for smaller devices such as Android tablets or smartphones. With the APP ASVL (ATRON Smart Vehicle Location), ATRON provides an AVLC client application for mobile devices, which can easily be extended by the Route Guide functionality. This provides the driver with the same functions as the on-board computer. Tablet or smartphone are used as driver terminals in minibuses, on-demand transport or call taxis that support public transport.

Conclusion

New, unknown routes, surprising rescheduling or detours due to road works: Especially in large cities, the routing of bus routes can change quickly. In order to guide the drivers safely, a tool that connects navigation with the timetable system in the background is a good idea. This way, the control centre can react quickly and transmit the new routes to the drivers directly in the system.

Further information: www.atron.com.