The Traveller Assignment application receives the trip requests from the Booking and Reservation application and assigns the trips to available mobility services. Depending on the configuration of the DRT services and the supporting software, this may be done in conjunction with the Route Optimisation software. In turn, the Traveller Assignment application provides information about the assignment to the Booking and Reservation application, so that it can inform the customer about the trip – especially the pick-up location and time, and the expected arrival time at the destination.
Variants of the Traveller Assignment application include, in order of increasing complexity:
- Assign the traveller to an available slot on a route that most closely meets the request parameters
- Identify one or more available slots that approximately meet the request parameters. Dialogue with the Route Optimisation application to test whether the route (path and/or timing) can be adjusted to more closely match the request. Select the option that offers the best match.
- Assign the traveller to the most suitable slot at time of booking. At some point prior to the journey, the application reviews all assignments in the service area (or sub-area) for that time in tandem with the Route Optimisation application. It reassigns travellers where there is benefit to do so, while preserving the pick-up/set-down locations and at least the priority time (pick-up time or arrival time).
- Assign the traveller to the most suitable slot at time of booking. As further bookings are received, dynamically reassign travellers both to optimise resource and to remove constraints from accepting further bookings. Finalise the traveller assignment shortly before the trip. This is done in tandem with the Route Optimisation.
- Assign the traveller to the most suitable slot at time of booking. The traveller assignment and route information are decentralised to the on-board computers of the vehicles. The computers on the vehicles dynamically optimise routing and traveller assignments, taking account also of their current location and any non-booked travellers they have collected. This is still an experimental approach, most notably in demonstration as ADART in the USA.
The Traveller Assignment application must ensure that whenever a traveller is reassigned, any specific needs of the traveller must be available on the new option – e.g. wheelchair accessible vehicle; the driver has specified customer-support training.
The dynamics, timing, flexibility and complexity of the Traveller Assignment depend on the time the traveller is required to book ahead of travel. The most typical options are:
- All bookings required by the day prior to travel. A one-off traveller assignment and route optimisation is performed at close of business. No further bookings are accepted.
- Only bookings made on the day prior to travel are guaranteed. Traveller assignment and route optimisation are made at close of bus on day prior to travel. Bookings may be accepted on day of travel, but only on the basis that space is available and that is does not require change to route or timings.
- Bookings are accepted until about 1-2 hours prior to travel.
- Bookings are accepted until the vehicle begins the trip
- Bookings are accepted after trip has commenced, subject to being able to accommodate the request with disrupting the path or timing
The Traveller Assignment application prepares a manifest for each trip, which will then be passed either to the Operations Management application or electronically to the driver’s in-board unit.
Technologies, data and resources
The Traveller Assignment system consists of software applications. It is essentially an allocation and optimising algorithm. The fundamental requirement is that it must have the capacity to check that all received requests have been assigned. The Traveller Assignment application requires interfaces with the Booking and Reservation System and with the Route Optimisation application. It must also export the assignments to the driver’s manifest.
Advantages and Cautions
The primary advantages of Traveller Assignment applications for DRT are to:
- Manage the traveller assignment process
- Assign the traveller quickly (i.e. within seconds) so that the booking call is completed in acceptable time and the customer has confirmed travel details at the end of the call
- Facilitate reassignment, both to optimise resource requirements and to free up spaces where required for other travellers.
- Generates the driver’s manifest in electronic and/or printout form
The principal cautions in relation to Traveller Assignment applications for DRT are:
- Care must be taken on reassignment that customer’s needs are not forgotten – e.g. wheelchair accessible vehicle; priority on arrival or on pick-up time
Relevant Case Studies
Prince William County
Other relevant examples in Gothenburg, Sweden; Flanders, Belgium