Public transport is the only viable mobility option to seek education, work and social connectivity for a majority of blind and visually impaired persons. They face major difficulties in independently accessing public buses since they cannot read the route number and are unsure about the physical location of the bus and its entry/exit door. Despite constantly seeking help from sighted fellow travelers, blind persons frequently miss their desired bus, are unable to reach the entry gate and frequently get hurt in the process. The possibility of these events adds to the fear and anxiety of the visually impaired traveler.
The system in use: Basic Functionality
A radio-frequency based solution has been developed which consists of two modules: a mobile-llike hand-held user module, and a bus module installed inside the bus. Once at a bus stop, the user presses the query button on the handheld module to obtain route numbers of the buses in vicinity. These numbers are read out to the user via a speaker / head phone in the user module. This essentially solves the first problem of helping the user know if the desired bus is there at the bus stop. Once the route number of a desired bus is read out, the user needs to select it by pressing the selection button. This triggers a voice output of the number from a speaker installed at the entry door of the bus, thereby assisting the user in orienting and navigating towards its entry. The select button can be pressed multiple times to trigger the guiding voice output from the bus. Once the select button is pressed, it activates a bulb at the driver panel thereby informing the driver about a person with special needs who wants to board his particular bus.
The trails for Bus Identification System in Mumbai concluded successfully on 18 April 2015. In the first phase of the Mumbai trial, 35 visually impaired people boarded the system installed buses, with a research team observing, to test OnBoards units fixed on 16 buses on route numbers 121 and 134, operated from BEST Backbay depot. 100 supervised boardings were recorded in this phase of trial.
In the second phase, OnBoard units were fixed on all of the 24 BEST buses covering the same two routes, with 20 visually impaired people conducting about 350 unsupervised boardings. The next stage would be to install the device on at least 1,000 buses and use it in natural environment.
Completely User Triggered – removes need of any external assistance
Suited to traffic conditions of many developing countries where multiple buses simultaneously arrive and line up arbitrarily at a crowded bus stop
Requires minimal modifications on the bus.
Adaptable to be used for trams, trains, metro rails etc.
Useful for senior citizens and individuals with low-vision
User Trials in the Past
1. OnBoard Trials on DIMTS Cluster Buses in New Delhi
During this phase of the trial, we collaborated with the Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System Ltd. (DIMTS), an organization that operates a large number of buses in Delhi. The field trials were conducted on five public buses running on a major route number 507. Twelve users cumulatively attempted 100 boarding’s over the three months from July to September 2014. A success rate of 94
boarding’s out of 100, were recorded and this validated the effectiveness of OnBoard in making public transport accessible to visually impaired people.
2. OnBoard Trials on IIT Buses and Delhi University Buses
The system has been extensively tested on IIT Delhi and Delhi University buses with volunteers from the National Association for the Blind, Delhi. The system was tested by more than 20 users in Delhi and the user feedback and enthusiasm had been really positive.
User testing under normal traffic conditions with IIT bus at real bus stops along Mehrauli Road and IIT Campus Road. The user successfully identifies the bus and boards it independently in noisy conditions with heavy traffic.
Pilot trials on Delhi Roads on regular city buses are being planned with support from DIMTS (Delhi Integrated Multi Modal Transit System Ltd)
Paper on On-Board published at TRANSED 2010 in Hong Kong held in June 2010 and at TRANSED 2007, Montreal, Canada.
Innovative Student Project Award, Indian National Academy of Engineering (INAE), 2008 [National Award]
Best Industry Relevant Research, Forum for Innovation and Technology Transfer (FITT), IIT Delhi, 2008.