Streamlining Dial a Ride Services: The Road XS Automation Advantage

Mar 8, 2024 | DRT

Dial a Ride which is also known as demand responsive transport, is an ad-hoc service that meets the demands of its passengers. Within a community transport arena, it’s used by passengers who can’t use a standard fixed route service (such as public transport) to travel to medical appointments, school, work, shopping and so on.

Dial a Ride is usually a to-the-door service. The vehicle will arrive at the door pick them up and take them to their destination. The vehicle could be a car but is most often a minibus or accessible vehicle.

Dial a Ride differs slightly to demand responsive transport in that with Dial a Ride the passenger will usually book in advance. Demand-responsive services are booked on the day and the transport service quite literally responds to the demands on the day.

The Dial-a-Ride Problem

The challenge for any Dial-a-Ride or demand-responsive service is to ensure that enough passengers travel on the vehicle at any given time to make the service viable for both the operator and the community.

Imagine running a service where only one passenger is in the vehicle. This scenario not only fails to generate enough income for the operator but also imposes a significant burden on the environment.

If the operator cannot make the service work, it often leads to the service shutting down, severely impacting passengers’ quality of life as they lose access to essential transportation.

How often do you see minibuses travelling around with only a couple of passengers, or even just one? This happens because the service isn’t optimised to maximise passenger capacity.

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Most services manage these ad-hoc operations with paper or outdated computer systems. Passengers are booked and given a broad pickup time frame. However, as more passengers are added, these time frames can vary widely.

The more manual calculations required, the more likely it is that the journey will be closed to additional passengers to ensure timely arrivals. In the worst cases, passengers are forgotten or picked up hours later than planned.

Dial-a-Ride is complicated, and there is a significant need to simplify the process with the use of technology.

Why Dial a Ride Needs to be Automated

As tasks become more complex, the likelihood of errors increases, and planning becomes more time-consuming. We’re all human, and we all make mistakes.

Unless you are a math genius capable of calculating permutations at the rate of an IBM supercomputer, planning a Dial-a-Ride route manually will either take an enormous amount of time or result in errors. This process can also be incredibly frustrating. Check out our ‘People Aren’t Parcels‘ scenario to see the challenges transport managers face daily with Dial-a-Ride services.

Dial-a-Ride services operate non-stop, so one problem can quickly snowball into multiple issues throughout the day or week. Continuous problems result in a poor reputation, as passengers simply want to be picked up on time, for the right price, and taken to their destination efficiently.

Passengers don’t care about the complexities involved in organising their trip, but they do care about being late. This is why Dial-a-Ride services need to be fully automated today. Automation ensures efficiency, reduces errors, and enhances the overall passenger experience.

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The Dial-a-Ride Solution

Many people believe that simply throwing technology or money at a problem will make it disappear. However, that’s not the case with Dial-a-Ride.

While investing money might help, it doesn’t necessarily solve the problem. Similarly, applying technology without a suitable solution means the problem persists. This was the scenario we faced in 2018.

As we delved deeper into the complexities of Dial-a-Ride from both a human and technological perspective, we realised why no one had tackled this problem commercially—because it’s incredibly challenging.

We examined existing software solutions and found that available transport software often relied on manual interventions and rough estimates of what a route might look like. Some software was prohibitively expensive and failed to address the core issues, offering workarounds and best practices but neglecting personalized passenger requirements. They were also not user-friendly at all.

They didn’t accommodate scenarios such as cancelled bookings and jumped ahead in time instead of asking drivers to wait, wouldn’t allow advanced bookings, or even return trips.

Additionally, these solutions didn’t consider passengers’ travel time and its impact on their journey experience. There was nothing on the market that truly met the needs of Dial-a-Ride service operators.

Managing Dial-a-Ride routes is inherently difficult because of their dynamic nature. This challenge required a different approach—one that embraced innovation. We needed to develop new technology tailored to fit around the lives of both passengers and the teams managing the services.

Our solution aimed to simplify optimise and automate Dial-a-Ride operations, ensuring an efficient, user-friendly and personalised service for passengers, drivers and transport teams.

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The Dial-a-Ride Software That Works

I can hear you sighing—another software solution, another set of promises. So, what makes us different?

We took an unconventional approach. We stripped away all the elements of traditional transport services and focused solely on the passengers—what they wanted and expected from a Dial-a-Ride service.

Next, we considered the operators who book the journeys. We thought about their stress, and their concerns about ensuring no one is left behind, and no pickups are missed.

We knew the task ahead was not easy.

After years of development, testing, feedback, and numerous iterations, we arrived at our solution. Surprisingly, it worked even better than we imagined.

Here’s what our Dial-a-Ride software at Road XS does and how it automates Dial-a-Ride services:

  • Automated Journey Creation: Journeys are created with available vehicles automatically selected.
  • Passenger Convenience: Passengers are added with their requirements captured at their preferred time. If the time is not possible, alternative times are offered.
  • Prioritised Arrival Times: We ensure that arrival times are prioritised over ad-hoc journeys which are not time dependent like medical appointments.
  • Easy Return Bookings: Passengers can book return journeys with ease.
  • Optimised Routes: Routes are optimised to minimise the time passengers spend in the vehicle.
  • Capacity Management: Total passengers in transit are calculated to ensure vehicles are never over their maximum capacity.
  • Accessibility Considerations: The system factors in space for wheelchairs and other special requirements.
  • Dynamic Re-Optimisation: As more passengers are added, the route is re-optimised instantly to meet each passenger’s needs without operator intervention.
  • Real-Time Driver Updates: Drivers receive real-time updates and integrated navigation to each stop with accurate prevision encompassing What3Words integration.
  • Accurate Pickup Times and Windows: Pickup times are provided based on real-world mapping, road speeds, and traffic—no more guesstimating!
  • Live Vehicle Tracking: The transport office can see vehicle locations and pickup statuses in real-time.
  • Flexible Service Modes: We offer a blended Dial-a-Ride and Demand Responsive Transport (DRT) service, allowing for pickups from homes, virtual bus stops, or both.
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Sounds too good to be true?

It’s not.  All you need is Road XS.

If you’re looking to improve your Dial-a-Ride or Demand Responsive Transport services with complete automation, let us know. We’ll be happy to show you how it works. You’ll be amazed!

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