Automatic Vehicle Location Advantage
Most people are new to the concept of being able to track vehicles, people and pets using mechanical devices. Some people are bound to take it all with a pinch of salt, perhaps as a spin off of the gizmos used in Hollywood action flicks. Some others are likely to view these devices as an intrusion into their lives and equate the device with loss of freedom. However these devices are a godsend to million-dollar businesses at the management level and parents concerned about the safety of their children.
Consider this- you simply log onto a website and are able to visually keep track of a person or thing equipped with a very small device.
AVL-What is It?
Automatic Vehicle Location or AVL is a system primarily used in tracking vehicles, freight systems and automobiles. It uses computer technology. The tracking device attached to the vehicle sends out signals and thus passes on information about its real-time position to a control system. There are several techniques for determining the position and transmitting it, and the requirements determine which technique is actually used. As a general rule, the device stores the position information for a specific period, which could be anything from a few seconds to some minutes. The device may send out the information in the raw form (electronic signals) or as processed information.
AVL systems are often used by transit agencies in combination with computer-aided dispatch, mobile data terminals and emergency alarms. These agencies also use AVL for improving passenger services, for uses such as real-time passenger information, automatic passenger counters and automated fare payment systems.
AVL systems can also come into use for purposes like automatic stop announcements, automated destination signs, monitoring vehicle components and prioritizing traffic signals.
Here is a representative diagram that shows how GPS based AVL systems work.
Transit agencies use AVL to enhance optimum utilization of fleet and reduce fuel consumption, labor and capital costs. AVL helps to improve adherence to schedule and access passenger information. With AVL, more data is available and this makes it easier to manage transit systems. The net efficiency and productivity of the systems thus increases. Studies indicate that apart from increasing operational efficiency, AVL systems also enhance customer service due to the ability to predict bus arrival timings in real time. Increased customer service and satisfaction are thus the greatest benefit of AVL.
Supplementary technologies like automatic passenger counters also enable to analyze service performance in real time as well as chronologically, enabling system planning and emergency repairs. A study conducted in 2003 has shown direct link between AVL and increased ridership and revenues.
Here are some of the advantages of AVL point-wise.
- Productivity enhanced- more trips, capital savings due to the ability to better utilize vehicles, maintenance costs reduced and thus general reduction of cost per vehicle
- Better adherence to schedule, accuracy in monitoring and coordination
- More number of users and higher user loyalty
- Reduced need for supervisors and manual data entry
- Improved ability to control operations and driver performance
- Effective tracking of off-route vehicles
- Communications between drivers, supervisors, operators and other staff improves
- Lesser number of lost radio messages
- Capabilities to inform passengers of bus arrival times improve the quality of service and help the travelers to take better decisions
- Reduces complaints from customers and need for customer information personnel
- Improves overall image of the transit agency through these steps
- The data is more accurate and complete and thus the agency is able to schedule and plan better
- Can reduce preparation time for schedule as well as number of staff required
- Better bus stop placement
- Better security for driver as well as travelers by enabling faster location of vehicles and response to accidents
- Better operational decisions towards detours due to sudden developments like bad weather, roadway closings and accidents
What are the Costs?
The costs of AVL include procurement, installation and the software for the on-board device and the control center. There are also labor costs concerning maintenance and new staff to operate the systems. AVL systems are available at different prices, the price dependent on the size, number of components and the sophistication of the system.
The AVL systems are available in a wide range of models. There are models with simple, basic features like GPS/ DGPS AVL that have computerized dispatching, mobile data terminals and silent alarms. On the other end of the spectrum are models with highly sophisticated features. These systems work out cheaper for large fleet that needs similar features, as the cost of the central monitoring system is distributed over a larger number of vehicles.