Finalist 2023

Sprightly

Sprightly Transport Solutions / Two Bulls / Atco Engineering / Manuco Electronics

Sprightly is a modern digital in-vehicle platform that enhances public route bus safety as well as driver and passenger experience.

Two of the greatest challenges of our time are carbon emissions and congestion in our cities, and Public Transport (PT) can help with both.

The public route bus sector is facing a national bus driver shortage, and needs to provide a safer and better driver and passenger experience. This has been hampered by older technology and unnecessary duplication of hardware components across independent IT systems, which is highly inefficient. Technology in this sector has not changed much, until recently.

Sprightly has addressed these issues with a modern, flexible, scalable and secure single solution delivering highly innovative functionality.

Design Brief:

Also, in many aspects, public route bus in-vehicle technology has changed little in many years. This meant that simply consolidating existing functionality was not enough. We should use innovative thinking to drive the industry forward (no pun intended!)

We created an ambitious brief, where planned outcomes included:

  • Better value for money
  • Improve driver and passenger safety and experience
  • Improve reliability

We are pleased to see how reform objectives in Victoria’s Bus Plan have since validated these objectives.


This project was developed by:

Design Process

The design process began with a comprehensive review of existing in-vehicle technology systems, which provided valuable insights that established the foundation for upgrades such as enhanced CCTV and new capabilities such as Passenger Information Display (PID) content.

Extensive quantitative, qualitative and ethnographic research was completed including conversations and interviews with bus operators, drivers, and various professionals. This allowed us to understand their challenges and how we could help.

Heading into the product design phase, key objectives were identified to increase safety and to enhance the on-board experience for both drivers and passengers. These included greater visibility for drivers by using CCTV as a visual aid, as well as access to real-time information for both drivers and passengers.

Our “CCTV+” has introduced visibility not previously available to drivers. Using automation we show the appropriate camera(s) when needed - left and right turn, reversing, and at the bus stop – without any manual effort from the driver. We have also included guidelines for turning and reversing, including educating drivers what a metre looks like (for the A Metre Matters road rule).

Our Driver App, with real-time route and schedule information assists drivers with unfamiliar routes, and is far easier for drivers to use than printed run sheets or cards, and makes it far easier to remain on schedule. We used contemporary automotive user interface design to reduce cognitive load and the risk of night blindness.

Our PID represents a significant upgrade to the passenger experience, with real-time Next Stop information now available at a glance. Meticulous design effort was put into our PID housing to ensure it would "look OEM" (Original Equipment Manufacturer), be easy to install, and handle the vibration found in a working bus; and into the user interface to ensure a consistent user experience across integrated transport modes.

Design Excellence

For us, good design meant almost invisible design, as our aim is to provide access to real-time information that is simply there when needed.

Our driver display reduces clutter in the driver compartment, by delivering access to CCTV and real-time schedule information via a single user interface. Automation further ensures the driver has the right information at hand exactly when needed, without any manual effort.

We’ve taken CCTV from a system generally just used for surveillance (recording, and viewing at a later date) or limited driver visibility (e.g. reversing camera only), to a fully featured visual aid. The provision of a larger display and addition of turning and reversing guidelines provides drivers with an essential tool that we expect will become standard in all new heavy vehicles in Australia. We call this CCTV+.

Our Driver App has given drivers access to information that is valuable and easily located at a glance. The design has carefully taken into consideration the challenging job that drivers undertake, by delivering a simple user interface that reduces cognitive load; that considers contemporary automotive user experience design; and that uses dynamic brightness adjustment to minimise night blindness. All of this has made it far easier for drivers to maintain schedule.

The impact of our 37” inch ultra-wide PID is felt the moment the passenger boards the bus. The clean and simple design is seen immediately, and with useful information available to passengers at a glance, we are contributing to the frictionless experience they want.

Consistent feedback is that our PID "looks OEM" (Original Equipment Manufacturer), which is highly positive feedback considering the design excellence of the Volgren Optimus buses Sprightly has been installed in. The design contribution by our PID component suppliers Atco Engineering and Manuco Electronics has delivered an excellent outcome.

Design Innovation

Our unique hybrid solution combines what are usually independent systems, and has allowed us to create innovative functionality that would not be possible otherwise, offering a superior driver experience.

At the foundation of the solution is our proprietary automated bus route and schedule monitoring capability, being necessary for data collection as well as for real-time information for both drivers and passengers and to enable our smart automation. Such functionality requires extensive collection of disparate data, and complex algorithms which are very challenging to create. This is because, unlike trams and trains, bus behavior can be far more erratic. A bus can skip scheduled stops, make unscheduled stops, and depart the planned journey path, etc. Sprightly has benefited greatly from access to buses provided by Dysons, Moonee Valley Bus Lines and Seymour Passenger Services. This allowed us to gain invaluable experience with real-world scenarios, and create solutions to these challenges, ensuring data presented to both drivers and passengers remains accurate.

Our CCTV+ is highly innovative. Prior to Sprightly, drivers must rely on external and internal mirrors to see passengers inside and outside the bus. Sprightly is the first solution for public routes buses to use CCTV as a visual aid for reversing, turning and at the bus stop - including guidelines for reversing and turning. Our “Stop Cameras” are dual cameras that provide complete coverage of everyone who may be wanting to board or alight the bus, and thanks to our route monitoring capability, the system knows exactly when to display Stop Cameras (at a stop, but not stopped at traffic lights).

Also unique to Sprightly is that we include real-time schedule data on the driver display beside CCTV, so the driver has everything needed in one place. This is far simpler for the driver than needing to use multiple displays.

Design Impact

Our solution is the only IT system for public route buses that combines the broad functionality that we offer, using a single black box, antenna and SIM. Doing more with less is cost efficient, and better for the environment.

We are proud to make the job of a driver easier and safer, and in light of our mission to make PT better, we are excited by the positive feedback that we are getting. Not only is PT key to reducing emissions and congestion, it is crucial for connecting people, households and communities.

Through the creation of our cutting-edge algorithms and user centric design, we believe we’re setting a new standard for the industry in safety and usability. Safety is a key factor influencing passenger decision making (on whether to use PT) and a key factor in driver retention. We believe that our CCTV+ is setting a new safety benchmark for heavy vehicles in Australia, widely called for by organisations such as Bicycle Network.

We believe our future is bright, as Sprightly is a good fit for any bus fleet, anywhere on earth, as the issues facing Victoria and our local requirements are certainly not unique. Our solution is not only flexible and easily adaptable, it is built on global industry standards.

As we showcase our solution to industry and every passenger who sees our PID, we’re certainly very proud to be demonstrating Victorian ingenuity and design. We have put thousands of hours into our solution, and are extremely proud of it, and the finished product is certainly better for the design contribution from our local partners Atco Engineering, Manuco Electronics and Two Bulls / DEPT (who elevated our driver and passenger user interface design and created content for our PID).

Circular Design and Sustainability Features

As Australia moves towards zero-emission technology (the Victorian government has pledged for all new PT buses to be zero or low emissions from 2025), the question arises: “Can a Zero Emission Bus (ZEB) improve the passenger experience and increase Public Transport usage?”

Zero emission buses offer a quieter more comfortable ride, and no emissions. But while we can all be extremely grateful that the transition is occurring, the reality is that many people will continue to drive their car.

Overall passenger experience is key to boosting ridership and lowering both carbon emissions and congestion on our roads. Sprightly offers a number of enhancements to improve the passenger experience: better visibility for drivers ensuring better safety for passengers while boarding and alighting, and hopefully ensuring no one is left behind; real-time information for drivers helping ensure the bus is on time; better CCTV in general as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour; and our PID is a major assistance for passengers, especially passengers with less confidence, such as those with disability or the elderly, or simply not paying attention or unfamiliar with the route.

Sprightly has also been considerate of the most important of the 5 R's of the circular economy: Reduce. Our first and foremost objective from the outset was to consolidate IT system hardware in the bus. By reducing the need for multiple IT systems using duplicate hardware, we reduce the hardware that needs to be manufactured in the first place. Added to that, our focus on flexibility, expandability and future proofing ensures the IT system installed in a bus has a long life expectancy. A worst-case scenario is where an IT system becomes outdated in just a few years and must be replaced with something newer.

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