University of Ottawa uses local startup’s tech to improve transit service

OC Transpo

The University of Ottawa is partnering with a local startup in the hopes of improving transit service in Ottawa and beyond.

By OC Transpo’s own admission – and Ottawa readers might know this all too well – late buses are fairly common in the capital. The transit agency’s own recent schedule adherence report shows that buses on some routes were late more than 30 per cent of the time in the first half of 2017.

That’s not entirely OC Transpo’s fault: traffic accidents, congestion and poor weather conditions can throw an entire route’s schedule off-kilter at a moment’s notice.

In an attempt to give transit services better status updates on their own bus routes, uOttawa researchers are leveraging analytics from a local startup’s technology.

Ottawa-based Smats Traffic Solutions, which develops sensors to track vehicle occupancy, is working with the university to develop algorithms for dynamic scheduling that can provide real-time updates on bus delays during adverse conditions.

Smats Traffic Solutions’ sensors provide accurate passenger travel information by tracking occupants’ journeys via smartphone signals. This data can then inform transit agencies’ decisions to send more buses to certain routes and better allocate resources in times of need.

Amir Ghods, founder and CEO of Smats Traffic Solutions, told Techopia recently that partnering with post-secondary institutions is a solid strategy to advance startups’ research and development. Smats has a similar partnership with Carleton University to enhance the detection accuracy of its sensors.

“There are groups at universities that are very focused on the types of challenge you’re trying to address. They can help you,” he said.

Currently testing their algorithm on synthetic data, researchers at uOttawa will next take their research into the field to see if their work really can keep transit on track.