Stagecoach, Britain’s largest bus, coach and tram operator, will be using Israeli developed artificial intelligence-based software to help plan bus scheduling and better handle changes in how people travel coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stagecoach said that its planned “technological transformation” will see the rollout of the software platform of Tel Aviv-based firm Optibus, a maker of a schedule-optimizing software for bus fleets and public transportation operators.
The public transportation industry still commonly uses outdated planning tools, like Excel spreadsheets and pencil and paper, to plan and schedule complex systems. The lack of digital infrastructure leads to poor service , excess expenditures, and traffic congestion and pollution.
Optibus software aims to change the way things are done and is today used in more than 450 cities around the world. By combining artificial intelligence, advanced algorithms and cloud computing, the software delivers smarter timetables and transportation network routes to meet continually evolving consumer demand, especially in light of the pandemic.
Optibus software performs deep analysis and number-crunching on anything that could affect public vehicle schedules: traffic, weather, drivers who call in sick, rock concerts that increase passenger loads, road closures.
It will also reduce CO2 emissions as buses can be planned more effectively, the Israeli firm said in a statement on Monday.
Optibus software will also help Stagecoach roll out its new electric vehicles more quickly and more effectively by ensuring that factors such as charging locations and charging times are included in the schedules, and will take battery life into account. Last year, Stagecoach introduced Manchester’s first fleet of electric double-decker buses and is aiming to have a zero-emissions bus fleet by 2035, the statement said.
Carla Stockton-Jones, UK managing director for Stagecoach, said that it is crucial for the firm to “continue embracing the latest technology to provide the best services for our customers and to help attract new customers.
“As we have seen during the Covid-19 pandemic, we need to be able to respond to changing circumstances quickly and alter timetables and operations delivery to best suit the needs of our customers and communities. This technological transformation will give our planning teams the latest cutting-edge technology to help ensure that timetables can be planned faster and more easily.
“As we come out of the pandemic, this new technology will help us to plan to bus networks of the future and ensure that buses continue to play a key role in the country’s recovery,” she said.
After successful pilots across Stagecoach West Scotland and Stagecoach West in July, the Optibus platform was to be rolled out across the company over the following 18 months.
Optibus CEO and co-founder Amos Haggiag said the pandemic has made it “clearer than ever that cities and public transportation providers must be flexible and innovative to be able to adapt rapidly and reach informed, data-driven decisions that best serve residents’ changing travel needs.”
Founded in 2014, Optibus has been recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Technology Pioneer (2020) and by Gartner as a Cool Vendor (2018). Optibus has offices in London, Tel Aviv, New York, San Francisco and São Paulo. The firm has raised $53 million to date from investors including China’s Alibaba, according to the database of Start-Up Nation Central.
Stagecoach has 24,000 employees and 19 operating companies with 8,300 buses, coaches and trams that serve commuters in England, Scotland and Wales.