Firm snaps up smart bus license

Talking Bus demo

A passenger information system that enables Seattle area residents to check

bus arrival times via the Internet could soon be available to the rest of

the country.

The University of Washington, which developed a demonstration system

for King County Metro Transit, granted a 30-month exclusive license to Digital

Recorders Inc. in January to modify the technology and sell it to other

transit authorities.

"It's the only [predictive] system that has been implemented on so many

buses that's really working," said Tanya Johnson, the company's general

manager.

In King County, transit officials and passengers can track the whereabouts

of 1,200 buses from their computers or Web-enabled phones thanks to two

complementary technologies from the university's intelligent transportation

systems research program. Busview shows bus locations on a map, and MyBus

predicts arrival times.

Digital Recorders plans to integrate the products with its existing

automatic vehicle location system. Its Talking Bus and TwinVision display

technology rely on Global Positioning System satellite signals to make automated,

on-vehicle voice and text "next stop" announcements.

The King County system compares odometer readings with assigned routes

to place the buses on a digital map and predict arrival times.

MyBus algorithms compare real-time data to previous bus trips to make

predictions. University engineers have also created traffic models to account

for bad weather or unusual congestion. Depending on the distance between

the bus and the stop, the software can be 99 percent accurate within one

or two minutes of the prediction, said MyBus architect Dan Dailey, an associate

professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington.

"But whether it gets there exactly on the minute is not an issue. It's

the security of knowing the bus is coming" that makes the system valuable,

said David Turney, Digital Recorders' chairman and chief executive officer.

"The magic is the marriage of those two proven technologies, while at

the same time moving" them to GPS, Turney said.

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