Drivers were freed from their dependence on maps a long time ago – nowadays they rely on their navigation device to get them to destinations in unfamiliar areas. But this luxury has so far remained elusive for users of local public transport systems. A personal guide – similar to a car’s navigation system – designed to show them the way to their destination and help avoid hold-ups and out-of-service lines would be a tremendous help. Commuters and locals could switch to alternative routes if their bus or train was late and tourists would be able to find the quickest route to their hotel or to the main city sights. Now it seems there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon for public transport users: Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Transportation and Infrastructure Systems IVI in Dresden are working with eight partners from industry and the research community on the Smart-Way project, which aims to develop a personal guide which would offer a whole lot more than just timetable information.
This mobile guide is being developed in the form of a navigation application for cell phones and smartphones. The goal is to make the app available from 2012 to help people find their way through the labyrinths of trains, buses and trams that criss-cross Europe’s cities. The application displays multiple alternative routes on a map which shows all the stops, connections, modes of transport, directions, arrival and departure times. Users also have the option of breaking off their journey, switching to different forms of transport or entering a new destination at any point they wish: By constantly tracking the user’s current location, Smart-Way is able to respond in real-time by simply re-calculating the route. The same applies in the event of traffic jams, delays or early arrivals – whenever new developments affect your chosen route, the app immediately suggests alternatives. A useful touch is the vibration alert that tells you when you have reached your destination or missed a stop.
A prototype of Smart-Way has already been completed and the researchers hope to have a final version of the application ready to roll out across Europe by 2012. The first field tests are scheduled to be run in September 2011 in Dresden and Turin in cooperation with the local public transport operators.
(photo © Fraunhofer IVI)