University delays 4-RIDE automation

The University is extending its deadline to automate 4-RIDE vans past this semester because a trial run of the system is in the works.

Senior Associate Vice President for Safety and Security Darrell Darnell – who is spearheading the project – said he does not have a time frame for finalizing a contract to automate the shuttle service. He said last January he hoped to have the system in place by the end of the semester.

Officials began working toward implementing a system that offers students the option of requesting rides online or through a smartphone, as well as track vehicles to provide estimated arrival times and streamline the dispatch process.

The University added the new tracking technology to two vans, allowing them to transmit the vehicles’ location, number of passengers and ignition status to dispatchers. Dispatchers can also see a street view of the location. The technology was added to these two vans as a trial phase.

Darnell said Navman Wireless, the contracting company, is “doing the University a favor” by allowing the 4-RIDE dispatchers to learn the system on the two test vehicles before it automates the entire fleet of vans.

The $30,000 contract will be approved, he said, if and when the University fully automates the system.

Once signed, the contract will need 90 days to transition before it fully takes effect, meaning the automation system cannot be in place by the time of Darnell’s original goal of the end of this semester.

Under the new automated system, shuttles would pick up students within 15 minutes of receiving a phone call and students would also be notified of an estimated arrival time via text message.

About 400 passengers use 4-RIDE on weekend nights and the service transports 350 people on the average weeknight.

Darnell added that he hopes students will be patient with the new system once it is fully in effect, as there is potential for glitches.

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