New Technology Will Help Transportation Operators Enhance Service and Safety

RIT and Vox Gen Inc. partner with RGRTA to implement speech technology interface

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Rochester Institute of Technology’s Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies and speech technology developer, VoxGen Inc. are partnering with the Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority, also known as RGRTA, to improve vehicle maintenance procedures. The project can be seen as a benchmark for the transportation industry globally, proving that a voice-automated application can not only produce safer services but also reduce paperwork and make it easier for staff to carry out proper checks and maintenance.

RGRTA needed to employ a system to ensure that all vehicle checks are carried out efficiently and effectively and make repairs more accountable—so management knows each check has been made and by who. It was also imperative that a new system demonstrate clear value to drivers and maintenance technicians who would use it, to facilitate its acceptance and ultimate implementation.

For the project, VoxGen’s speech technology expertise was integrated into the Center for Integrated Manufacturing Studies’ Life-Cycle Engineering and Economic Decision System, a decision support and data collection tool that is applied from design through retirement, allowing optimization of life-cycle costs through periodic technology upgrades and remanufacturing.

The multimodal system works by guiding the driver through maintenance checks via a wireless headset. Technicians have an additional hand-held device to lead them through their more complex maintenance and troubleshooting routines. Not only does this ensure that each required procedure is carried out in its entirety, but the system also logs the data for management reference and provides a complete audit trail. This results in increased levels of safety, reliability and vehicle availability, as well as satisfied drivers and maintenance staff.

The feedback of those testing the system on-site at RGRTA was incorporated at every stage. This user-centric approach allowed RIT and Vox Gen to develop a voice system that fits the needs of drivers and maintenance staff. RGRTA is now considering integration of the system into day-to-day operations.

“The project with RGRTA has shown how VoxGen’s technology, when combined with our software technology, can create a support tool that integrates with the daily activities of the workforce,” says Nabil Nasr, CIMS director and assistant provost for academic affairs at RIT.

RGRTA Chief Executive Officer, Mark Aesch welcomes the team’s ability to match technical expertise with a deep understanding of the needs of users.

“We needed to work with partners that we could trust to handle the relationship with end users,” he adds. “The result of this project was that the drivers and maintenance technicians had confidence in the development team from the start, and felt a sense of ownership and involvement in the project. That can only help with the acceptance and ultimate effectiveness of this kind of technology.”

The system has a wide range of potential uses, beyond the bus maintenance needs of RGRTA. That is why the project was closely watched by several U.S. military groups, which are looking to resolve the same kind of issues within their ground vehicle fleets and want to gain insights into the use of the multi-modal technology from a working model.

“The results here speak for themselves,” notes Simon Loopuit, CEO at VoxGen. “The best advocate for any system is a satisfied user, and we've got both civilian and military user groups crying out for it to be deployed in their workplace.”