With mass transit on the rise globally and smart city programs being announced by governments worldwide, augmented reality (AR) has the potential to empower public transport with a self-support system for millions of travelers.
A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation stated, “Over 300 million residents use the nation’s transportation system every day.” Even globally, all big cities of the world — from London to New York, to Tokyo, Moscow and Madrid — have one thing in common: An expansive mass transit network that forms the lifeline for citizens. However, for a newcomer, taking a subway in any of these cities is a challenge. Reading, following and decoding the intricate web of subway maps can be tricky to say the least. While a one-to-one comparison may see London’s subway map marked with distinct red (Central Line), dark blue (Piccadily Line) and pink (Hammersmith & City Line) score over the plain A, B, C, D, F lines of the maze seen from New York City’s subway system, the fact remains that these subway maps are difficult to decipher for the common traveler.
Advanced technologies like AR are emerging as the perfect tool to simplify mega transport networks and systems and make them more comprehensible and personalized. Imagine reading the New York subway map, but in an animated format that gives you precisely the information you are looking for, without the criss-cross lines.
AR overlays digital information on users’ physical environment or live video feeds in real time. Thus, the user no longer needs to search for information. By just pointing a mobile phone or a tablet in a certain direction, location, neighborhood, kiosk or monument, it can stimulate virtual elements that deliver all the relevant information needed in real-time.
An Engaging Experience
For foreign travelers, AR can make finding your way around — or getting train or bus information — an absolute breeze. Commuters can just hold their phones on top of subway maps to see current location and real-time movement of trains and buses on different routes. AR can make these subway maps come to life with animated trains or buses, hotspots that mark the level of turnstile activity at different stations and the estimated time of arrival of their specific train or bus. AR can also help commuters to easily navigate to the nearest subway station by using their current location and the latitude and longitude of the station. Commuters can also get other information like nearby restaurants, places of interest and more by just pointing their phones in different directions.
Safety & Efficiency
AR is helpful, not just to the commuters, but also for transport operators and drivers. By transforming the windshield into a smart glass, drivers can get live updates on traffic, congestion areas, alternate routes, speed cameras or pedestrian crossing alerts — thereby avoiding delays and saving precious commuting time, cost, and improving transport efficiency overall. This is not just restricted to trains or buses and can even be extended to marine or air transport. AR is helping transport operators gather insightful data and intelligence that can be used to improve efficiency of transporting goods and people.
Smart Ticketing and Travel Planning
Smart ticketing is increasingly becoming preferred over traditional ticketing, largely because of the convenience that it provides travelers to check-in to different modes of transportation, hotels and restaurants with a single smart card. Using AR-powered smart cards will further allow travelers to unlock exclusive content and information related to their travel, such as places of interest nearby, available modes of transport to travel around, reviews and ratings. This can further allow travelers to plan their travel more easily and even on-the-go.
Substitute or Complement for Transit Maps
Transit maps (2-D maps) have physical limitations for carrying information and can be too dense and difficult to read. Cramming hundreds of lines criss-crossing each other, even color-coded, is always going to be difficult to decipher. There is just not enough space for the designer to display all the vital information and still keep the visual clean and minimalist. This is exactly where 3-D scores over the conventional 2-D scenario. AR can dynamically change the map and show a range of information and other items depending on the user’s search criteria. It allows commuters to more easily access only the necessary information without having to look over the map for too long. A quick search would highlight the specific route, mark the stations en route and the right place to hop off based on the user’s search.
As cities across the world become bigger and smarter, they need faster and more enhanced technologies to run them. AR can help authorities make critical transportation systems more efficient, delay-free and above all — safer.
Krish Kupathil is the founder and CEO of Mobiliya.