London buses are about to get smarter


Transport for London (TfL) is currently testing a couple of new techie innovations in buses: live maps to show you where you are, and impressively/terrifyingly, a display showing how many seats are free upstairs.


Anyone who lives in the capital will know that catching a bus, especially during rush hour, isn’t the most pleasant experience. You cram yourself into a small space with far too many other people, and to find a seat you have to squeeze past them and climb some stairs whilst the double-decker is moving – often to find there’s nowhere to sit when you get to the top deck.

Luckily, TfL seem to b working on making the bus experience (marginally) better. According to IanVisits, a couple of clever innovations is on the way.


Firstly, buses could soon be getting screens mounted at the bottom of the stairs that show a map and the real time location of the bus. Using data from Open Street Map, it’ll also display the names and locations of the next few stops, and how long it will take for the bus to get there (using the same excellent ‘iBus’ technology that powers the TfL bus stop countdowns, presumably). Not only will this be great for tourists, but it should reduce the feeling for seasoned Londoners visiting an unfamiliar part of the city of going on a mystery tour.

The other innovation is both clever and potentially disturbing: These same screens could soon apparently be showing the number of free seats on the upper deck, to save you the trip up top if it is full.


As Ian notes, this technology will work not by using sensors in seats to detect if people are sitting on them, but instead by doing some clever visual analysis on the CCTV pictures. The camera will literally be watching the upper deck – as ever – but using some clever image processing algorithms will also count the number of bodies.

It’ll be interesting to see how well this works in the real world – though as we’ve seen with the new Amazon phone, image recognition technology is increasingly commonplace. Apparently TfL won’t be storing the recognition data or sending it anywhere – so you can set your tinfoil hat accordingly.

So could London buses be about to become slightly more bearable?

James O’Malley
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