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Looking Out for Every Rider

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Written by

LookingBus is a connected vehicle technology that helps riders with disabilities use public transit. By utilizing smart location aware sensors and Internet of Things (IoT), LookingBus provides drivers with notifications of riders with disabilities at their upcoming stops and when the riders need to get off the bus. This ensures that drivers can assist riders while boarding and departing. People with disabilities, such as visual impairments, depend on public transit 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) departing the bus at the right bus-stop. By means of technology, LookingBus is looking out for every rider and addresses all these challenges. LookingBus will address the specific challenge question #3: Support Residents with Disabilities. This pilot for LookingBus will enhance the experiences for residents with disabilities for riding public transportation.

The LookingBus system includes location aware sensors that are placed on bus-stops and work in synchrony with mobile apps. The system alert drivers about the presence of riders with disabilities at their upcoming stops, as well as when they need to get off the bus. As a Vehicle to Infrastructure system, LookingBus developed proprietary hardware and a slew of software applications, including driver apps, rider apps, and a dispatch center.

LookingBus addresses the challenges that people with disabilities face while riding public transportation. This product will enhance experiences for people with disabilities, especially those with visual impairments, who are limited with their ability to ride public transportation. Through implementation of smart bus stops, as well as user and driver applications, LookingBus enables people with visual impairments to use public transit services that are reliable, safe, and more independent.

LookingBus answers the call of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires cities to tend to the transportation needs of people with disabilities. By improving the accessibility of the fixed-route buses to riders with disabilities, LookingBus provides the public transportation agencies with a cost-effective alternative to Paratransit services. The success of LookingBus will also be measured in its ability to improve perceptions of the quality of transportation services provided by IndyGo. The evidence-based success LookingBus pilot in Indianapolis will be measured by its ability to enhance the quality of services provided by IndyGo and the city.

Previous pilot testing was conducted in collaboration with the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART, in Detroit, MI) and is now in deployment at Capital Area Transportation Authority (CATA) on their entire bus fleet. LookingBus is ready for implementation in additional cities, including Indianapolis. The Company aims to make LookingBus a flagship solution for cities and transit agencies, which they will be proud to highlight in their annual reports and display as a success in the adoption of advanced technologies that underpin the cities of the future.

Describe who will use your solution (1,000 characters)

The primary users of LookingBus would be IndyGo drivers and their riders with disabilities. The User Journey Figure shows how the registered LookingBus rider (or their caregiver) begins by reserving a trip on the rider app. Once the ADA rider arrives at the bus-stop, the sensor detects the rider and alerts the bus driver about their presence. The LookingBus system alerts drivers again when the rider arrives to the destination stop, providing a more efficient service for riders with disabilities. The rider app is user-friendly and is a complete trip app that accompanies riders from the time they make a trip reservation to when they arrive at their final destination. The driver app User Interface is designed to use without creating distractions for driving and rider safety. Visual indicators provide clear, color-coded alerts to drivers to eliminate confusion and provide necessary details about the rider saved in their profile, including a picture, nick name, and type of disability.

Describe your solution's stage of development

  • Ready to Scale - you have completed and expanded your pilot and are seeing adoption of your solution by your intended user

Insights from previous testing (500 characters)

Pilot testing of LookingBus produced valuable findings that were used to improve the technology. Volunteer riders suggested audible directions, use of vibration, and reminders for the mobile app. Drivers provided ideas about visual, timing, and audible aspects for the notifications and provided feedback on the positioning of the driver unit to minimize distractions. Operations personnel suggested hardware design that included water resistance, robustness, and communication capabilities.

Tell us about your team or organization (500 characters)

LookingBus has a world class team of engineers, scientists, and entrepreneurs, including a fully-blind individual. The team also boasts a strong base of advisory board composed of experts in public transportation, mobility, and technology. LookingBus is a woman-owned business that develops smart city technology for riders with disabilities. The team is eager to extend the LookingBus service and is also confident in its ability to quickly and affordably scale our smart city innovation.

Size of your team or organization

  • 11-50

Funding Request

  • $25,000

Rough Budget (500 characters)

LookingBus will use the requested money to conduct outreach activities for the community, training for the IndyGo drivers, and building a local social media groups of users involving Indianapolis community members. The outreach activities will be conducted in collaboration with local disability groups and the IndyGo public outreach program. The LookingBus system will be provided for free throughout the pilot period, including license, hardware and software.

Describe how you would pilot your idea (1000 characters)

The hardware, software, and service of LookingBus will be provided for free for the duration of the pilot, up to one full year. LookingBus proposes to conduct a six to twelve-month pilot of the system in the Indianapolis area, and the pilot will focus on collecting customer satisfaction information from both drivers and riders. The LookingBus system will be installed along the red lines of the IndyGo bus system that serve popular areas including the downtown and airport. These lines have been identified as busy lines with large numbers of riders and high frequency of buses. The system will be available on all buses used for these routes and at bus stops along the way. In preparation for the trial, the LookingBus team will provide ITS provisioning, including the integration of the IndyGo routes, bus schedule, and vehicle locations onto the LookingBus servers. The pilot funding will only be used for outreach and training activities.

Describe how you would measure the success of your pilot (1000 characters)

The success of the pilot will be measured by (1) collecting perception information from riders with disabilities and IndyGo drivers, (2) utilizing an on-going in-app trip rating, and (3) conducting NPS (Net Promoter Score) surveys. The perception surveys will be administered in multiple stages, regarding the focus groups, trainings for riders and drivers, and using the service in the field. An on-going in-app trip rating will be implemented as well to gather insights from riders and drivers using the product. NPS surveys will be utilized to determine customer satisfaction. NPS will ask drivers and riders separately how likely they would recommend the product, on a scale of 0-10, to a friend/colleague. Pilot testing of LookingBus will highlight a range of valuable findings that will continue to refine the technology and services. The research strategies will provide feedback to developers and the training personnel to guide LookingBus to improve its overall service.

Sustainability Plan (500 characters)

Having a great technology is not enough. It is important to form relationships with the community and work on building the brand. To promote sustainability of the product, LookingBus will create a community of users for drivers, riders with disabilities, and the general public. In the long term, LookingBus plans to continue using social media, focus groups, and outreach programs to raise awareness. LookingBus strives to have full-scale, industry ready deployment throughout the IndyGo system.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Elizabeth Durden

Hello Nirit, I am liz a Community Resource Liaison. Your device will allow so many people a chance to go out who otherwise couldn't or would have to rely on others to get out of the house. Do you currently have a notification that vibrates to allow the hearing impaired to use it as well.? Can you link your app/website to Indygo's app and or Visit Indy so your users will have access to most of Indy's events all the time?

Photo of Dona F

What a wonderful idea. Thank you so much for creating a much-needed way to safely commute for riders with disabilities. Good luck!

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Thank you Dona!

Photo of Hallie Sha

I love this idea and the impact it could make on many communities!
Will anyone in the community be able to attend the outreach activities that are mentioned?

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Thank you, Hallie. We appreciate your time and interest in LookingBus. Everyone in the community is invited to the outreach activities and to be active in the social media groups. We encourage members of the community who do not have disabilities to participate as well so they will have a better understanding of the environment present to riders with disabilities. There will be multiple sessions to accommodate time conflicts for as many people as possible, and there will be on-going support through social media.

Photo of MaCie' Moore

Hey @Nirit Glazer this is MaCie’ one of the facilitators here! Thank you for participating in the challenge! I think your app will change public transit for our disabled population, and their families which is needed. I think I’m confused how the sensors would work, could the app have access to the users GPS and do something similar and cut cost? Also will this app prompt some sort of training for drivers surrounding disabilities and how to best utilize the app?

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Thanks again for the wonderful questions MaCie'. Allow me to clarify, the LookingBus system is not just an app, but a connected vehicle system that includes both hardware (sensors at the bus-stops) and a set of software applications (including multiple apps such as the driver app and the rider app). The sensors are the heart of the system and have a central role in the accuracy, reliability, and safety of the service. The sensors are the ones that send the alerts to the drivers about the presence of the rider at the bus stop, not the app. This approach has many advantages, the most important one is the “Alerts reliability”. With the LookingBus sensors at the bus-stops, alerts are sent out to bus drivers only when riders are physically waiting at the stop. Similarly, the sensors also cancel the notification in the event that the rider leaves the bus-stop. Based on feedback from drivers, this is a critical feature of the service as it prevents drivers from losing time in their strict schedules because they stopped to look for a user that no longer intends on boarding the bus.
The LookingBus system also allows riders to reserve a trip within a flexible time window. Reservations can also be made by a 3rd party, such as doctor office or family members. With the LookingBus system, the riders only need to walk nearby the bus-stop, without any additional actions on their end. Once they are at the stop, the sensors do all the work for them.
In addition, the presence of the sensors at the bus-stops help the riders with the micro-navigation to the precise location of the bus-stop out of many other nearby poles (which is explained in more details in my answer to Iris above).

Photo of Irena S

Hi Nirit. Great idea.
I am curious, how will the bus driver interact with the driver app?
Will it be potentially distracting for them to use the app while operating a bus?

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Great Question Irena. Thanks for asking. The driver app does not require any action from the drivers while they are operating the vehicle. A special device installed with the app will be positioned in the driver’s pit so that it is not distracting to the driver. The driver will be alerted of pick-up and drop-off requests with a color-coded alert system. The screen will change color depending on the request. For example, if a pick-up is requested, the device screen will turn red. Once at the stop, the driver can check the details of message so they can assist the passenger as needed.

Photo of Elizabeth Durden

I absolutely love your idea! This will be life changing for the physically, mentally and mobility challenged individuals in my community. I would like to partner with you to help you collect the data you need. Your idea will give most of the individuals who are afraid to ride the bus a sense of security. Thank you!

Photo of Nirit Glazer

Thanks Elizabeth. Will be happy to talk about the data collection.

Photo of Elizabeth Durden

My pleasure! Thank you for protecting one of the most vulnerable groups of individuals in our communities.