The Bluetooth In-Car Messaging Trial came about from the Intelligent Transport Systems Leadership Group (ITSLG). They developed three potential ITS demonstration initiatives. The initiatives were to create visibility and momentum around the potential for technology to improve performance of the transport system, rather than as a comprehensive solution to land transport system problems.
The initiative chosen for trial was the delivery of safety messaging into rental cars travelling along the Christchurch to Queenstown route.
A project team has been formed, led by the NZ Transport Agency, who are delivering the project on behalf of the Government.
The project team includes representatives from Ministry of Transport, as well as Resolve Group, HMI Technologies and GO Rentals who are all NZ based companies that worked on this homegrown solution.
The first stage of the trial ran for a period of three months from Saturday 2 July.
The project team are currently compiling the final report and assessing extending the trial for another three months or expanding it to other locations.
The messages will focus on three things – reliability (talking about the road, how to travel on it etc.), amenity (where rest room facilities are), safety (remember to stick to the left side of the road, there is a big junction coming up, slow down, etc.). They won’t be long messages- simple, short information bursts. Specific locations were selected where real time location specific safety messaging would be meaningful to travellers.
Bluetooth is a global wireless communication standard that connects devices together over a certain distance. Think headset and phone, speaker and PC, smartphone and more. It is built into billions of products on the market today and connects the Internet of Things (IoT) which is the network of physical devices, vehicles, buildings and other items.
The trial intends to improve safety, but also inform a number of technology challenges, such as exploring innovative ways of delivering technology in remote locations and assessing if there is merit in supplementing more traditional road signs through in-vehicle messages. The benefit in doing the latter is that we can eventually deliver messages in the driver’s preferred language, which could be particularly useful for visiting drivers.
The system is a proof of concept and we recognise that this is a first for New Zealand. While we undertook comprehensive systems testing throughout all the development phases of the system, we decided to trial it first to ensure that everything works correctly. Two key components of the trial are testing the customer experience, while confirming that the message will have a positive impact on behaviours. During the trial we will be seeking volunteers to sign up to use the system and we have engaged Neilson (a well-known customer research organisation in New Zealand) to gather feedback from them. We will use this feedback, together with other data collected as part of the trial, to assess the success of the solution and decide next steps.
The bluetooth in-car messaging system went from concept to reality in about six weeks by applying rapid prototyping techniques. This is a great example of achievement through Government collaborating with the right private sector partners.
By leveraging off the subject matter expertise held by the different partnering organisations (NZ Transport Agency, Ministry of Transport, GO Rentals, HMI Technologies and Resolve Group) the project, team was able to identify the best spots to install the transmitters. Each of the sites where chosen based on a combination of whether in-car messaging might be particularly useful for that spot, messaging would complement existing road sign advisories and can accommodate safe and efficient installation.
Messaging was aligned to the fit the applicable transmitter’s location.
The route was selected because of the high number of rental vehicles (from trial partner GO Rentals) that will use the route, as it is a popular tourism journey. While the trial will not be launched during peak tourist season, a high quality small sampling will suit the initial stages well and inform any improvements required for subsequent stages of the trial.
The trial is a proof of concept and incurred additional development costs. Even so, the cost of a solar powered Bluetooth transmission unit is about $4,000, which compares with costs of traditional reflective road signs. The in-vehicle transmission units cost about $680, but there is the potential in the future to replace these by using existing smart phones.