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Old May 26th, 2005, 04:27 AM   #1
hkskyline
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London's buses to get 120m satellite tracking system

London's buses to get 120m tracking system
James Mortleman
26 May 2005
http://www.computing.co.uk

Siemens signs deal with TfL to supply real-time satellite system.



Transport for London (TfL) is investing 120m in a satellite tracking system to improve services for passengers using the capital's buses.

The system from Siemens will provide real-time information to major bus stops on all principal routes, allowing people waiting to see accurate arrival times. It will also prevent the problem of buses bunching.

'We're trying to sustain the massive increase we've had in bus passengers over the past four or five years, and we believe making sure they have better access to real-time information will be a key part of making sure we do that,' said TfL spokesman Graham Goodwin.

The system will also allow control rooms to more reliably co-ordinate bus journeys.

'The system gives us more accuracy, more flexibility and more capacity,' said Goodwin.

'It also includes a management tool that will give our service controllers far more control over what is happening out on the road. For instance, they can act proactively to ensure vehicle separation, since it will very quickly become evident if buses start to bunch up.'

TfL already has a vehicle tracking system in place, called Countdown, but this is based on roadside beacons rather than satellite tracking.

'Countdown is not as accurate as the new system because it doesn't give us continual, real-time information. In addition, it was never designed for a bus network as large as the one we have today. There are now 1,500 more buses on London's streets than there were four years ago,' said Goodwin.

More than six million people use London's buses every day, covering more than 700 routes.

TfL will pilot the system on one route before installing it universally. The company expects the system to be in regular use within two years, with the technology fitted to all London buses within four years.

Goodwin says that the solution proposed by Siemens also includes a number of other interactive features. 'There is a lot more functionality that we're not talking about yet, but passengers will have one or two nice surprises when the system goes live,' he said.

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www.computing.co.uk/2070358
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Old May 26th, 2005, 04:54 PM   #2
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We have a similar system in Berlin since 3 or 4 years. Its quite good!
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Old May 26th, 2005, 06:43 PM   #3
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I think thats the roadside beacon system that can already be seen around London, and other cities such as Portsmouth, Brighton etc... in the UK. The system that I saw in use in Berlin is identical to the one in London and Portsmouth for example.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 07:08 PM   #4
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what would improve my journey is to be able to breath on london buses.
What does it matter to know when the bus is coming when it actually skips bus stops, and not because the bus is full up but because they just can't be bothered.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 07:24 PM   #5
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Wow, it seems that Shropshire is ahead of London on public transport for once!! We've had this system on Shropshire buses for a few years already.

http://www.acis.uk.com/reference/refsites21.asp
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Old May 26th, 2005, 11:57 PM   #6
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Does the system also include dynamic passenger information on bus stops? That's pretty easy to do if buses are tracked via GPS.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 02:48 AM   #7
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what do you mean by dynamic passenger information - you mean like how many people are on each bus?

I suppose that would be doable actually, as the driver either takes tickets or people scan their ticket.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:34 PM   #8
Vertigo
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No, I mean displays on the bus stops, showing real-time information about departure times, delays, etcetera.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 01:59 PM   #9
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Maybe its just me, but this **is** a lot of money - and TfL are cash strapped!

I would very much prefer to see the money go into other infrastructure investments - such as clean electric trolleybuses which do not pollute the streets and therefore would be would be a real breath of fresh air.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 02:22 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nick-taylor
I think thats the roadside beacon system that can already be seen around London, and other cities such as Portsmouth, Brighton etc... in the UK. The system that I saw in use in Berlin is identical to the one in London and Portsmouth for example.
The problem is that at the moment most of the displays are not accurate so not many people are bothered to even look at it.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rachmaninov
The problem is that at the moment most of the displays are not accurate so not many people are bothered to even look at it.
Hence why this system is coming into place
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Old May 27th, 2005, 02:49 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vertigo
No, I mean displays on the bus stops, showing real-time information about departure times, delays, etcetera.
yes, In Berlin there are such displays in all metro stations and at the most important tram and bus stations! I dont know hot it will be in London!
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Old May 27th, 2005, 03:29 PM   #13
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WEll i nLondon at many bus stops it allready has displays showing how many minutes till the next bus, however this is done using land based beacons. They are now moving to provide this for all bus routes but using the apparently more reliable GPS system.
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Old May 30th, 2005, 02:19 PM   #14
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we have also a similar sistem in madrid since 3 years ago
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Old June 1st, 2005, 12:43 AM   #15
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Quote:
WEll i nLondon at many bus stops it allready has displays showing how many minutes till the next bus, however this is done using land based beacons. They are now moving to provide this for all bus routes but using the apparently more reliable GPS system.
Thanks for the explanation.

A very similar thing is going on in the Netherlands, moving from beacons in the road to GPS-based systems. The most important reason is having less maintenance costs.
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Old June 1st, 2005, 01:40 AM   #16
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The article references the "massive increase" in passengers over the last 4-5 years and states that there are 1,500 more buses on the road than 4 years ago. I'm curious - what is the cause of the increase in ridership over the last few years? Is this in any way related to the implementation of the downtown congestion charging zone in February 2003?

Kent
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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:19 AM   #17
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Does any of you have a picture of passenger information displays on London bus stops?

This is an example from the Netherlands:

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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:45 AM   #18
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I'll take a picture tomorrow - just for you!
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Old June 1st, 2005, 01:58 PM   #19
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Thanks!
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Old June 1st, 2005, 02:54 PM   #20
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I thought Portsmouth used the road-side beacon method, but instead employs a wireless mesh network.........



Guardian Article


Rush hour revolution

Portsmouth's new public transport system is leading the drive towards a literal information superhighway. By Sean Dodson

Thursday May 26, 2005
The Guardian

"You don't see one for ages and then three turn up at once" is something you are unlikely to hear if you catch a bus in Portsmouth this morning. Since November, a radical public transport overhaul has allowed the city to put an end to that age-old roadside refrain.

Portsmouth has had numerous transport problems. The city of 186,000 people is actually on an island, Portsea, and separated from the mainland by a narrow creek. Just three bridges serve a road network further swollen by tens of thousands of passengers heading for the ferry terminals en route to France and the Isle of Wight. "We used to have a rush hour," says John Domblides, the city's chief traffic controller. "We don't any more. We just have seven lanes on and seven lanes off the island. You simply can't get any more traffic into the city during the day."

What Portsmouth desperately needed was to get more people out of cars and on to public transport. But the city's congested streets played havoc with bus timetables, and unreliable scheduling deterred people from taking the bus. To encourage more people to ditch their cars, the city invested in a wireless mesh network: a web of wireless antennae, situated at bus stops, which supply the city streets with a huge amount of air-bound internet bandwidth.

In practical terms, this means that passengers at any of the city's 37 real-time passenger information bus shelters are told exactly how long they will have to wait. This is not an estimate based on timetables, but accurate up-to-the-minute information beamed directly from the bus. Because bus operators have access to the exact location of their fleet, they can set schedules accordingly.

The city's 308 buses have been equipped with their own "ruggedised" PC, running a version of Windows. Each bus is able to monitor its precise position with a GPS (global positioning system) connection and upload information about its accurate arrival time using a mesh mobile radio data modem.

The network has cost 4.2m, swallowing about half the council's transport budget for two years - but it is already saving it money. The scheme moves urban traffic control data from fixed-line networks to the mesh network, saving the council more than 70,000 a year in telephony charges.

Portsmouth is one of the first places in the world to build an advanced version of what some are calling the "electronic highway". Also known as "transport telematics" or "intelligent transports systems" (Its), it borrows from a metaphor popularised by former US vice president Al Gore. The bus network in Portsmouth is literally an "information superhighway". But instead of the internet being like the road network, Portsmouth's road network is becoming like the internet.

Similar real-time passenger information schemes operate in London and Leicester, but the method of delivery is different because Portsmouth has built one of the most advanced wireless mesh networks in civilian use. A mesh network is a decentralised and inexpensive form of radio communication technology, developed by the US military so its special forces can communicate behind enemy lines. Or, as Domblides artfully describes it: "The stuff they strap to their backs when they jump out of aeroplanes." It has recently been commercialised and is now owned by Motorola.

Using ex-commando communication technology doesn't make the bus go any quicker, of course, but it does save bus operators money. In return, the operators invest in new fleets in the hope that a more reliable network will increase passenger demand. The first tangible benefit of building an electronic highway, therefore, is an economic one.

And it is not just Portsmouth buses that are going online. In-car internet access is rapidly appearing in the rear view mirror. In April, Toyota unveiled G-Book Alpha, a satellite-based car navigation system due to arrive in Japan next year. Not only can you talk on the phone over the network via Bluetooth, and download music, movies and mobile games as you hurtle down the motorway, the system is fitted with automatic crash notification software. In the event of an accident, the G-Book - alarmed by the sudden burst of the air bag - alerts emergency services to the car's precise grid coordinates, which are supplied by a satellite connection. Even if the passengers are unconscious, ambulance crews can be dispatched.

There are worries, however, that such systems are vulnerable to attack. General Motors recently announced it would make its OnStar system, a less sophisticated rival to the G-Book, a standard feature on its entire US fleet by 2007. But one website already boasts that the OnStar GPS unit is as easy to hack into "as soldering up a serial cable".

Back in Portsmouth, Domblides insists the military encryption running over his wireless mesh network should mean that Portsmouth's bus system is less likely to be hacked into.

The network had to be robust for other reasons, too. "We have a naval dockyard here and nobody knows what sort of electromagnetic transmissions and electronic counter measures to protect ships are coming out of there," he says. "We had to have a system robust enough to withstand anything coming out of the dockyard."

Even before Portsmouth buses went online, the fusing of information technology and the transport network has been gathering speed. In the past few years, the motorway and major trunk road network in the UK has been laced with fibre optic cable. There is a stretch of the M42, nearing the completion of its first phase, that highway engineers are describing as the "most instrumented section of electronic highway in the world".

Before the election, the former transport minister Tony McNulty said such sections of electronic highway promise to "improve safety, reduce congestion and bring environmental, economic and social benefits". Some say it could help the UK meet the targets set by the Kyoto protocol by providing the tools to accurately measure the true cost of a journey, and then charge accordingly. Road tax, for instance, could be charged by the mile rather than as a flat yearly fee.

According to Robin Chase, a Loeb fellow at Harvard University and founder of Zipcars, this is no bad thing. "I don't want to sound superlative," she says, "but I think mesh networking is going to transform our lives as much as the internet. I think it's the next revolution. The idea of having ubiquitous information access at almost no cost will completely transform society."

Although she recently left the company, Chase made her name designing a new type of car ownership. Zipcar members don't own a car but pool them, booking them by the hour. The company charges an annual fee plus $8.50 (4.60) an hour, covering petrol, insurance road tax and features such as satellite radio. Zipcars accommodates 25,000 members sharing just 5,000 cars in three US cities. The company can read the milometer and even disable the ignition remotely using the GPRS connection. In effect, Zipcars is a car rental company already plugged in to the electronic highway.

Chase says charging people for every kilometre they travel can be used to hold back global warming. "If you look at the gas tax, it's incredibly flat and regressive," she says. "Our cities are so congested because we have the wrong price point. It's too cheap, people consume too much."

A fully equipped section of electronic highway, perhaps running a mesh network, promises to allow a remote, accurate assessment of how much each vehicle's journey is really costing. It opens up the possibility of bigger cars being charged more than smaller ones, and perhaps more sophisticated differentials beyond that. Farmers, she says, should be able to take their product to market at a very low cost, while those who "choose to drive thousands of kilometres should have to pay an extremely high price".

Last year, the UK government published its white paper on the future of transport policy. It promised "freer flowing local roads delivered through measures such as congestion charging and demand-responsive bus services". To help make it happen, the government launched Transport Direct, which it describes as a "multi-modal travel information service". Already available as a website (www.transportdirect.info), the service will shortly be extended to mobile phones, digital TV and roadside kiosks - such as a Portsmouth bus stop.

According to another document published by the Department for Transport, the system already pulls together information from 330,000 bus stops, 2,500 rail stations and 3m "defined nodes on the road network". The foundations for a mesh of electronic highways is already here.

Such a network will no doubt upset privacy advocates, because suddenly, without much warning, a set of technologies will be able to monitor a vehicle's speed, road worthiness, the condition of its brakes, the amount of CO2 it emits, and even the status of its insurance policy. It will shatter contemporary notions of traffic controls.

Make no mistake, we are accelerating towards a world where the speed camera will become as obsolete as the turnpike gate.








The picture you show Vertigo is identical to the system in place in London, Brighton, Cambridge, etc.... the ones in Portsmouth look a bit more "advanced" with an actual screen. Maybe this is what the adapted system will look like in London!




This is literally just 100m from my house and on the other side of that central pole is an interface where you can print out cinema tickets, bus and rail timetables, theatre show updates, latest news, etc.... Its slowly being rolled out at all bus stops in the city!
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