LookingBus is a smart city system that helps people with disabilities ride public transportation. Specifically, LookingBus addresses the challenges of getting around using the public bus system, including boarding and disembarking (getting on/off) the bus. People with visual impairments depend heavily on public transit as an essential service for engaging in daily life and social activities. However, they often face challenges with (1) finding the correct bus-stop, (2) determining which bus to board, especially at busy bus-stops when multiple buses approach, (3) boarding the correct bus before the bus leaves the stop, and (4) getting off the bus at the requested bus-stop.
LookingBus enhances connectivity of public transportation systems through greater communication between riders, drivers, and bus stops using smart Internet of Things sensors. By utilizing Smart City technology, LookingBus provides drivers with advanced notifications of riders with disabilities at their upcoming stops to ensure that drivers can assist the riders as they board the correct bus. Likewise, the driver gets a notification when the rider needs to get off the bus. In this way, LookingBus is looking out for every rider - the LookingBus technology allows the drivers to be aware, prepared, and cognizant of the needs of the rider.
The project has exceeded expectations set during the IDEA program which put LookingBus in a strong position to grow and succeed. The LookingBus team developed a variety of location aware sensors that are placed on bus-stops. These sensors work with LookingBus mobile apps to alert drivers about the presence of riders with disabilities at their upcoming stops as well as when the rider needs to get off the bus. In addition to hardware, multiple software applications were developed, including rider apps, driver alerting apps, user portals, administration portals, and cloud services. Pilot testing with volunteer riders (with and without visual impairments) was also conducted in collaboration with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) in Detroit, MI. Overall, findings from the pilot were very positive regarding the value of the LookingBus service to stakeholders and its potential to integrate into and enhance current transit systems. LookingBus is now working with Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) for full deployment of the system on their fleet of 100 buses. This business partnership is an important milestone in LookingBus’ pathway towards industry-ready development and full-scale commercialization.
Looking into the future,the team plans to expand the service to other modes of transportation, such as Mobility on Demand (MOD), which are rarely accessible, for the most part because of the point of pickup and drop-off which are random curbsides along the street. By having LookingBus sensors installed along their curbsides, cities can further expand the transportation options available to individuals with disabilities. The goal of LookingBus is to provide people with disabilities, including those with visual impairments, more opportunities to fully engage in every-day aspects of society by improving the accessibility of public transportation.