Reading Buses outlines Bus of the Future

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Operator reveals some of the futuristic technology it plans to use and improvements it plans to make to the town’s bus services over the coming decades

Reading Buses has set out its vision for the future of bus travel in the town at a special stakeholder event.

Reading Buses CEO Martijn Gilbert opened the event, saying: “Reading is a growing economy, but if we don’t have enough of the right transport then things won’t work very well.”

The company has released a document entitled ‘Forward Future’ which builds upon the work of the Reading 2050 project, led by Reading UK CIC with town stakeholders, which sets out to ensure Reading becomes a ‘truly smart and sustainable city.’

A bus of the future exhibition, supported by material from the Reading 2050 project and including interactive seats with sensors, a virtual reality headset bus tour and ideas for new interior layout concepts, was also on display for the public at the company’s recent open day.

Martijn explained: “Good public transport has to be at the very heart of this if we are to succeed and Reading Buses stands ready to continue working with everyone to help make this a reality.

“Our vision is designed as a starting point to open up the sorts of discussions we need to be having across the region to work together to support public transport and make it an obvious choice for more of our growing travel needs.”

Taking inspiration from bus trials held last summer, which examines new vehicles and technology, the company’s vision harnesses the latest thinking of its employees through its work in internal improvement groups and brainstorming by its leadership team. It includes some futuristic ideas which have not been seen on bus networks before.

Six themes which were identified are:

  • Personalised customer experience: this included smart technology designed to allow on-demand personalised travel and technology like augmented reality glasses guiding passengers to the correct pick-up points;
  • On-board ambience: such as more social seating layouts, wireless device chargers, streamed entertainment on 5G WiFi and improved lighting through skylights and mood lighting;
  • Guided driving: autonomous aids to assist making and sensors to cover blind spots, with the aim to have a ‘zero injuries’ road operation;
  • Connected networks: ‘Internet of Things’ connectivity, helping to predict journey times and adapt routes, while linking closely with other modes of transport, for example delaying a bus if a connecting train is running late;
  • Digitised vehicle maintenance and support: remote condition monitoring of buses to highlight emerging faults before breaksdowns occur, and the ability to 3D print plastic and metal parts and deliver them to vehicles on the roadside or workshops with autonomous drones; and
  • People and partnerships: continuing to be a major employer and work with other employers, developers and stakeholders to ensure the public transport network serves passengers’ needs.