This week, Business Insider Magazine published an article about Mercedes-Benz’s bus of the future; a semi-autonomous bus which will be beautiful to look at & fun to ride. The article goes on to describe the different features the “Future Bus” will have. One really cool feature about the bus is the way it handles gas mileage. Unlike a human driver who’s driving habits consists of starts & stops, thereby decreasing the vehicle’s effective MPG, the Future Bus will employ Artificial Intelligence in order to predict and calculate the exact level of fuel needed to drive, and the exact braking pressure / downshift needed in order to slow down or stop. Thanks to AI technology, the vehicle will always receive its optimal gas mileage.
One can wonder how can we leverage technology that’s already available today, in order to provide the public with the most benefit, and best possible experience, from an innovation like Mercedes-Benz’s bus of the future?
The Uber Affect. Uber introduced the paradigm of “Ride On Demand”. You whip out your smart phone, and with the click of a button, a vehicle is ordered to your location. How long will you have to wait for your ride to arrive? Need to cancel your ride? All that can be accomplished from the Uber app. The Mercedes-Benz bus of the future can also be equipped with capabilities for engagement with the public. For example, when will the bus arrive at my stop? What is the fare when riding from point A to point B? How many seats are currently available? (This one would become my personal favorite feature, having ridden on commuter busses to/from Manhattan, they sometimes fill up pretty quickly. Rainy days are the worst! Everyone is soaking wet, with umbrellas sticking out into the aisles, and there are no seats available! Sometimes, you can have several people standing in the aisles!) Let’s say the busses are overcrowded, how can people request that a new bus be rolled out? Let’s say you’re a tourist, and you’d like to know how to get from 46th Street & 5th Avenue in Manhattan to 18th Avenue & 50th Street in Brooklyn. You’d like to know which bus to take, what time it arrives, which stop to get off for a transfer to another bus, what time that bus arrives, and what time you will arrive at your final destination.
One way to accomplish all of the above is via an app. Many cities have their own app. The Israeli bus company, Egged, has an app that does most of what was just discussed, and it works very well. However, what if there was a better way? Instead of pushing apps on people, imagine what the end user experience would feel like if you can use your communication venue of choice? For example, send a text to B-U-S-123: “when will bus arrive at stop 1901”? The bus will reply to your text: “3 min”. Or, “how many seats available?” The bus will reply: “0”. Suppose you’re not a texter, but you tweet like it’s going out of style. Send the following tweet: @bus123 travel from 1901 to 2722 leave at 3:15pm. The bus responds with a tweet that contains your detailed itinerary!
Let’s get a bit more creative. After receiving your detailed itinerary via Twitter, you hop on the bus. No spare change is needed because your Google Tango enabled sunglasses recognized that you are on bus# 123, and entered at stop# 1901. Your contact lenses, which are running the latest version of Google Lens, recognize the bus’s QR code which you just looked at. It takes the information from your sun glasses, and transmits it to the bus’s online payment system for a seamless experience. Your 9 year old son, instead of nagging you with the age old question “Are we there yet?”, texts it to the bus, who always responds courteously with honest and accurate information, and never loses its patience! When nearing your destination, you receive a text informing you to get off at the next stop. With service like this, nothing can ruin your day! Even if the bus gets a flat tire, the bus will automatically text the nearest repair resource with its GPS coordinates, so that help arrives within minutes, and the bus is back in service in no time!
In conclusion, we are living in very exciting times, with many innovative products on the horizon. The Internet of Things will become so ubiquitous that we won’t be able to imagine ever having lived without it.
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