Students invent new bus tracker

Students frustrated with unpredictable campus bus routes can look forward to a new bus tracking system that provides more advanced prediction capabilities.

A group of ECE students including Matthew Brooks, Christopher Chidi, Josh Mauldin and Daniel Nadeau have created a new device that has the potential to solve existing problems with the campus bus prediction system. Known as WaitLess, their device enhances prediction accuracy by continuously providing potential riders with information about bus locations instead of predicted arrival times.

Currently, the Institute uses a third-party system provided by NextBus, which gives riders estimated arrival times to a bus stop. Although this system is usually reliable and fairly accurate, there are frequent instances in which faulty predictions prove frustrating to riders.

“NextBus is inaccurate and imprecise, especially during heavy traffic times and when it rains. Sometimes, the site doesn’t even offer a prediction,” said Meenasha Reyes, a third-year DMTH major.

NextBus also poses the additional problem of only being accessible through a PC or internet-capable phone. Over the past year three bus stops saw the installation of text-based LED prediction displays, which can be quite expensive.

“NextBus is pretty good, but I would still like to see more of those displays at different stops,” said Jason Kraft, a second-year CE major.

The main difference between WaitLess and NextBus is that the former provides mounted LEDs on a map of the Institute that shows the progression of buses throughout their routes, allowing the user to make a decision based on the location and relative speed of a bus. This way, the prediction system eliminates the need for assumptions about speed and traffic.

The device is solar powered and uses WiFi to gather data from the buses. This means that it can be used as a stand-alone device and doesn’t require wires or communication lines. According to Brooks, it also drastically reduces maintenance costs over the life of the device.

The group members created WaitLess for one of their senior design courses, which included a modest budget. “Keeping the device low cost and low power was a priority from the start,” Mauldin said. “The projected cost is about $400.”

Mauldin and Brooks described the most challenging aspect of the project to be programming the logic for the device; in other words, getting the data from the WiFi to the microprocessor and parsing the data.

Looking towards the future, the group hopes to get the device onto all Tech stops and expand further. They made a presentation to Parking and Transportation and proposed installing WaitLess systems at a few stops this summer as a trial. The students have been approached from outside sources to implement their design. The group hopes to get the rights to the device from the Institute and implement it across the country.