A bus stop sign against a blue sky background

A world where three buses don’t come at once

The old joke that you wait ages for one bus and suddenly three come along at once may be consigned to the history bin thanks to developments in artificial intelligence. Here, Roger Brereton, head of sales at steering components manufacturer, Pailton Engineering, shares five ways AI will shape the bus and coach sector.

Enhancing safety
One of the primary advantages AI brings to the bus and coach industry is the enhancement of safety measures. Advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS), powered by AI algorithms, can detect potential hazards, monitor driver behaviour and provide real-time alerts. This can significantly reduce the risk of accidents and improve overall road safety.

AI-driven technologies such as collision avoidance systems, lane departure warnings and automatic emergency braking systems play a crucial role in preventing crashes and minimising the severity of accidents.

Optimising routing and efficiency
AI algorithms excel at processing large datasets and making real-time decisions. In the context of bus and coach travel, this capability can prove invaluable for optimising routes and schedules. AI-powered systems can analyse historical traffic patterns, weather conditions and passenger demand to adjust routes, thereby ensuring timely arrivals and departures.

Optimised routing not only improves efficiency but also reduces fuel consumption and emissions. By taking the most efficient routes, AI can contribute to the sector’s sustainability goals and help reduce its environmental impact.

Predictive maintenance
AI and predictive maintenance will positively impact the bus and coach sector by enhancing operational efficiency and reducing downtime. Through the integration of AI algorithms, buses and coaches can analyse vast amounts of data from sensors and historical records to predict potential failures in critical components like steering parts. 

This proactive approach allows operators to schedule maintenance activities precisely when needed, preventing unexpected breakdowns and minimising disruption to services. This not only reduces maintenance costs, but also extends the lifespan of vehicles by addressing issues before they escalate.

Personalising passenger experience
AI can transform the passenger experience within buses and coaches by providing personalised services and amenities. AI-powered customer service interfaces, like chatbots, can address passenger enquiries, provide real-time information and enhance overall satisfaction. The challenge for the bus and coach sector will be leveraging this technology before it is already commonplace in other transportation sectors, ensuring buses can maintain footfall in a competitive transportation landscape.

Autonomous driving     
While fully autonomous bus fleets belong in the realm of science fiction, AI is playing a crucial role in developing and testing current autonomous technologies. These technologies have the potential to revolutionise the entire transportation ecosystem, offering safer and more efficient mobility solutions.

Autonomous buses and coaches powered by AI can reduce human errors, enhance traffic flow and provide accessible transportation options for people with limited mobility. We are likely to see AI first in long distance coach travel, where straight routes on long, wide roads are more common. Introducing the technology in more complex urban environments will be more challenging and the widespread adoption of autonomous vehicles in the bus and coach sector will require overcoming regulatory, technical and societal challenges.

AI will play a transformative role in shaping public transport in the years to come and can be expected to play a positive role in enhancing passenger experience, increasing footfall and improving bus driver working conditions. With AI algorithms, hopefully the days of multiple buses turning up at the same time will be a thing of the past.