The effective operation of in-vehicle systems relies on the interoperability and trouble-free connectivity of equipment. Leading the way here has been the European Bus System of the Future (EBSF) project. Its IT architecture is open and interoperable, meaning that operators and organising authorities can use public transport data, anywhere in Europe, using common mechanisms, standard rules and protocols.
With standardisation the process of installing and configuring new equipment is automatic and makes maintenance and daily operations much easier. This translates into lower costs – of investment, installation, operation, maintenance and scalability. Tenders can be opened to more competitors - which helps generate better prices. Installation and maintenance of new applications and IT devices is quick - effectively plug and play.
Interoperability, standardisation and holistic planning reduce energy consumption. As ITS devices consume a lot of energy inside the vehicle - a feature of new systems is smart power management. Standard power management rules help to maximise a vehicle’s battery life and reduce the environmental impact. (See In-vehicle System)
Care should be taken to compare the features and component connectivity and interoperability offered by different vehicle manufacturers.
European Bus System of the Future (EBSF) incorporates a number of new features relating to passengers – such as lights indicating free passenger seats and entrances to the bus with the least congestion. Other features include advanced electrics enabling the charging of mobile phones. Increasingly common is wi-fi connectivity on buses and express coaches – and this can be a key selling feature of the public passenger transport experience.
Vehicle standardisation is very helpful in reducing costs, but the developments in Europe with EBSF and similar developments are unlikely to feed through to developing economies for some time. A key reason for this is the much harsher and more variable road conditions in cities within developing economies and the general variability but simplicity of much passenger transport equipment.
However, vehicle purchasers in developing economies should be aware of the extent to which their potential suppliers are able to adopt standards and systems - particularly those which serve to reduce purchase and operating costs.
Care should be taken in planning how new-generation and holistically-designed vehicles are deployed within the fleet, particularly in relation to older vehicles, and in considering whether there are issues relating to driver training.