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Transportation Software

Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-call-it-a-swede-ride dept.
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Where's the Uber-like interactivity for getting a bus to come to you after a tap on your cell phone? In Finland, actually. The Kutsuplus is Helsinki's groundbreaking mass transit hybrid program that lets riders choose their own routes, pay for fares on their phones, and summon their own buses. It's a pretty interesting concept. With a ten-minute lead time, you summon a Kutsuplus bus to a stop using the official app, just as you'd call a livery cab on Uber. Each minibus in the fleet seats at least nine people, and there's room for baby carriages and bikes. You can call your own private Kutsuplus, but if you share the ride, you share the costs — it's about half the price of a cab fare, and a dollar or two more expensive than old school bus transit. You can then pick your own stop, also using the app."
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Finland's Algorithm-Driven Public Bus

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 15, 2013 @11:19PM (#45139911)
    If Obama has his way, this is what we will wind up with in the USA. Please, please understand that all wealth is created in private industry and the government is a leech on society.
    • by Luckyo (1726890)

      In other news, pants are worn on the head.

    • Nah, we won't have algorithm-driven busses, just Al Gore-driven busses.

      • by Samantha Wright (1324923) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @01:48AM (#45140421) Homepage Journal
        Personally, I'm excited to hear more detail about how mathematical procedures have been turned into a tangible energy source. Those must be some pretty fancy denotational semantics.
        • by Anonymous Coward

          It's easy. As everyone knows, computers generate heat as they execute algorithms. Heat is energy. Therefore computation is an energy source.

          And don't complain that the energy is only converted to heat by the computation. Every energy source does that. After all, energy is conserved, so you cannot generate it, just convert it from one form to another.

          Captcha: humored -- seems Slashdot has a working humour detector ;-)

          • And don't complain that the energy is only converted to heat by the computation.

            If I understand the situation correctly, it isn't [wikipedia.org] - it's simply a physical necessity.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by epyT-R (613989)

      State officials would use it to keep a lifetime's worth of movement on every citizen, and then monday morning quarterback the people engaging in activities (even if only the heuristics suggest it) they don't approve of. Same is true with autonomous cars and anything else billed as a public convenience. They would also be used to rake people over the coals if they are late on their treadmill taxes/useless license 'fees' in unrelated areas. Oh, you want to go to work? Sorry, denied, citizen. You didn't re

      • The slope is at a small angle from the horizontal.

        By the slippery slope fallacy, you'll soon be living AT THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH.

        QED.

        • by epyT-R (613989)

          I disagree.. we're near the edge of the continental shelf, just before it rapidly descends to the bottom. There's plenty of historical evidence to suggest that the slope is slippery with things like this.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      The Daily Show had a pretty good episode where they traveled to Sweden to film a warning about America's dark socialist future...

    • What is socialistic about this? To me, it sounds like a really good thing to have, as bus service in the US is generally really crappy to begin with.

      When I read the summary of the article, the first thing that occurred to me is that it sounded really similar to the transportation system that prevails on the island of Efate in Vanauatu (but in Vanuatu there is no cellphone app for it. You just stand by the road and wait for the bus to come by), and when I was there I found it to be more convenient and mor
      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "When I read the summary of the article, the first thing that occurred to me is that it sounded really similar to the transportation system that prevails on the island of Efate in Vanauatu (but in Vanuatu there is no cellphone app for it"

        I beg to differ. The name is 'phone app', it's even better than Siri, you flap your lips and magically the bus appears at the address you just told to the phone app.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      TFA mentions that they expect the service to pay for itself.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Get your facts straight. If it wasn't for Obama/Government we would already have these provided by the free market. Instead they are being stopped by regulations and taxi unions in bed with government.

      http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2013/05/06/the-legal-battle-over-new-york-citys-taxi-apps/
      http://blogs.seattletimes.com/opinionnw/2013/09/06/seattle-city-council-must-change-taxi-ridesharing-regulations/
      http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/01/local/la-me-ln-rideshare-garcetti-license-taxi-20130801
      http://www.washingto

      • by regulations and taxi unions in bed with government.

        So you're saying that the government is corrupt enough to be manipulated by private entities that are mainly interested in making as much money as possible?

        Sounds about right. I'm not sure you're blaming the right people, though.

  • Hi! (Score:5, Funny)

    by fyngyrz (762201) on Tuesday October 15, 2013 @11:19PM (#45139913) Homepage Journal

    I'm Jonnie cab!

  • Now, I am not trolling, but can some one tell me what innovation haas come from the USA in recent years? It all seems to come from countries afar!

    • It all seems to come from countries afar!

      Socialist commies, the lot of 'em.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      well there's.... no wait .... Greece couldn't pay its bill first.....

    • by AHuxley (892839) on Tuesday October 15, 2013 @11:35PM (#45139977) Homepage Journal
      Weapons systems, contractors, aerospace, telco, medical equipment, computer software (with free NSA inside).
      The USA has basically settled into a top 10% doing engineering work for top $ and having it "made in China" or Laos or Indonesia.
      Great if you have a double degree paid off or generational trust fund. So the products are been created, just not from the USA beyond design.
      The US has the software, talent and creativity to rule the world but the world is moving on to more fun things :)
      The world dreams of small busses not another export shipment of boondoggled small US tanks for their generals to park at a base.
    • by mjwx (966435)

      Now, I am not trolling, but can some one tell me what innovation haas come from the USA in recent years? It all seems to come from countries afar!

      Search Engines?

      The US's huge technological power came not from Americans, but the ability to attract the worlds best engineers, scientists and technicians from around the globe regardless of their nationality. The US has let this attraction slide and other nations have capitalised on it.

      Of course the US claiming the Iphone is "innovative" makes some of the more backward nations look good.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Well, let's suppose that the innovation had come from the USA. The first thing the media would want to know is did a black or jewish person come up with the innovation. Next they would want to know what impact this will have on the economically disadvantaged. Next what kind of liability issues this innovation will entail. If this innovation is going to be competing against another well entrenched business, you can bet the entrenched interests will lobby local governments to get the 'innovation' quashed.

    • No, that's a pretty blatant troll actually.

      It's not like the idea of ride sharing is new. This is app based and from a year ago - http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/09/my-life-as-a-high-tech-part-time-not-quite-taxi-driver/ [arstechnica.com].

      But maybe you're right and someone in the US invented a time-machine, when to Finland of the future, stole their app idea, and then decided that that was a better way to make money than using a time-machine.

      • China is moving to surpass the US in published journal articles. I wouldn't say that the US hasn't been innovative recently, but other countries are passing the US for the lead. Worst of it is if it wasn't researched in the US you guys won't use the information and will re-research it.
        • I don't know what tiny elite bubble of academia you're living in, but most published journal articles are uninsightful blabbering. I've read more intellectual theological arguments about the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin.

          The explosion in number of academics or number of articles they publish does not amount to a marked increase in scholarship, but to a willingness to turn any remotely original observation into an academic article. And this remark isn't specific to China or America - it

      • It's not like the idea of ride sharing is new.

        Except that is invention is not about ride sharing itself, this seems to be about the application of combinatorial optimization to the problem of ride sharing.

      • by fisted (2295862)

        But maybe you're right and someone in the US invented a time-machine, [subsequently used his time-machine to make money,] and then decided that that was a better way to make money than using a time-machine.

        is what you just said.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      That's a serious question that deserves a serious answer. Wikipedia saves the day! [wikipedia.org]

      ..."self-proclaimed net sex commentator" George Kranz, who views recent American interpretations of bukkake as a "significant advance in human behaviour", emphasising the lively, almost party-like atmosphere of American bukkake videos compared to the more subdued Japanese style.

    • by MrEricSir (398214)

      Now, I am not trolling, but can some one tell me what innovation haas come from the USA in recent years? It all seems to come from countries afar!

      Hint: an innovative American transportation company is mentioned in the first few words of the summary.

    • by Burz (138833)

      This is the IGT concept -- Intelligent Grouping Transportation -- that was advocated in the UK many years ago.

      I think you're right. Americans only try new things if they directly heighten our tendency to become self-absorbed (or otherwise distracted or entertained).

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Patent trolling?

    • by Valdrax (32670)

      Define recent years, for one thing.

      Pretty much everything internet has been pioneered in America: ecommerce, social media, search engines, online maps, instant messaging, web video, blogs, BitTorrent and most other P2P services, Tor, etc. There may be a few earlier versions of these ideas that you can point to (e.g. Minitel), but the versions the world uses today are all defined by American companies.

      There's a lot of other computer innovation in America too. The top CPU & GPU makers are all American

    • by hibji (966961)

      Spacex i feel is huge. Tesla.

      Can I turn that question around? What innovation from outside the usa has happened in recent years?

  • That was put online long ago on Astronomy Picture of the Day [slashdot.org]. Thanks to a bunch of stupid people (you name them) we cannot see that any more!
  • Only a dollar or two more expensive than "old-school bus?"

    Numbers weren't in the article as far as I can tell, so where does this come from? How can anything billed at $5 + $0.60/mi be cheaper than a typical bus far? Just the starting price is more than a round-trip in a lot of cities...

    Finland must have some cheap cabs if cab fare is only double a dollar or two more than the bus fare for any non-trivial commute.

    • Re:Expensive Bus? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Buzer (809214) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @12:24AM (#45140149) Homepage

      Kutsuplus's price is 3.50 € ($4.73) + 0.45 €/km ($0.98/mile). For cabs, base price is 5.90€ ($7.97) € or 9€ ($12.16) depending on the time and the price per km is 1.52 € - 2.13€ depending on number of passengers ($3.31 - $4.63 per mile). The price for single mass transit ticket (inside Helsinki) is 2.80€ ($3.78) when bought from the driver and it's good for 60 minutes (or 80 minutes when bought from certain busses).

      • Re:Expensive Bus? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @03:28AM (#45140703)

        Meanwhile in 80 km southwards, in Tallinn, mass transit is free for registered inhabitants of the city... and nope, you don't summon buses. In former Soviet Estonia, buses summon you. :P

        • Re:Expensive Bus? (Score:5, Informative)

          by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @06:12AM (#45141343) Homepage

          In Tallinn, it makes sense to fund the bus network from general taxes, because only local residents are going to use the bus network: the area that tourists confine themselves to (the port and the Old Town) is so small that they don't really need to use buses.

          In Helsinki on the other hand, the tourist attractions are quite spread out, so you get a lot of tourists using public transit, and if you have to keep the army of ticket inspectors working to check up on them, you might as well maintain the fare system as it is.

          That said, public transportation is heavily subsidized for those who can prove they are Helsinki residents, and a monthly pass for unlimited use costs only around 40â, which I feel is reasonable.

          • by TheLink (130905)

            It also costs money to charge. Setting up and maintaining the systems to charge people money and handle, manage the money, deal with people with payment issues, often isn't that cheap either.

            My personal belief is that for some cities or towns public transportation should be free (at least the buses, trains and subways).

            Most shopping malls or office buildings don't charge you to use the escalators or elevators. It costs money to run these things, but the malls and office buildings make the big bucks elsewher

          • by copsi (2429192)

            In Tallinn, the ticket inspectors are still there though. And you can get fined if you are a local resident and should ride free, but forgot to "buy" your free ticket by swiping the RFID card in the bus. Even after several court rulings undoing such fines.

            However, the idea of free public transport, is not that bad, if feasible. In Tallinn, it used to be heavily subsidized anyway, with only ~20% of the money coming from ticket sales (IIRC). They are also planning to extend this to railways within the city, w

  • but with vans

    I have shared many van cab's though out the years, especially in smaller countries, split the cost and used a phone to schedule a pickup. Other than a name change so taxi's cant do anything about being undercut by the government, whats the news?

    • by hibji (966961)

      Not totally clear from the wired article, but they seem to pickup and drop off only at bus stops.

      • by 21mhz (443080)

        Bus stops are ubiquitous around metropolitan Helsinki. They not only use the stops used by "main line" buses, but also stops on smaller residential roads that are served by minibus lines catering to seniors and other people with reduced mobility (a Kutsuplus vehicle is basically the same minibus equipped with high-tech gizmos). They have even invented new stops for themselves in places they notice people often go to.

    • by Ksevio (865461)
      But a typical taxi doesn't have multi-stop routes for pickup and drop off. Usually a taxi with multiple people will pick them up at the same point.
  • They must have solved the travelling salesman problem.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      No, not at all. They just assumed that if a bus takes too long to reach its destination, some passengers would get off and say, "Screw it," until the number of endpoints reaches a number for which the computation becomes feasible. :-D

    • by Garridan (597129)
      Nope. This is nothing like TSP. The problem for this is "given a single new user, find the bus whose current route plan would be disturbed least by adding that user". Optimal point-to-point path finding in (nearly-)plane graphs is really quite easy, and these path deformations shouldn't be hard either. Besides... you only need reasonable approximations, not a global optimum.
    • by Ksevio (865461)
      We have a solution to the traveling salesman problem, it involves checking all the possibilities. Given the city isn't that large, and there are likely roads that can be removed because a bus can't go down them, how long do you think a solution would take? Compared to the rate of a bus, it's likely trivial.
  • With any luck, our government will also tax our gas to the point where paying $10 to wait for a bus in the rain and then ride in it with random strangers for an hour all over the town will make more sense than driving directly there in comfort of your own car in 15 minutes. And who says innovation comes only from the private sector!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @01:47AM (#45140411)

      With any luck, our government will also tax our gas to the point where paying $10 to wait for a bus in the rain and then ride in it with random strangers for an hour all over the town will make more sense than driving directly there in comfort of your own car in 15 minutes. And who says innovation comes only from the private sector!

      Only if you try to get everything wrong wherever you can. Apparently Helsinki is an expensive town regarding mass transit. Mass transit here is available for $2, is faster than by car and all stops have roofs. To summarize:

      1) 6:00-21:00 the waiting times are 5min for a single line and less if you can choose from more than one line on your route.
      2) Every stop has a roof so you don't need to worry about rain.
      3) Most of the time you are faster by feet than car (3 lanes) if you are inside a circle of 5miles radius around the city core and mass transit has their own lanes (one dedicated lane in the middle of the road), too.
      4) 3 doesn't include time to search for a free parking lot. You can avoid that be renting your own for 65$/month though (on the cheap end).
      5) Running costs, insurance and taxes make a car far more expensive than mass transit's monthly tickets.
      6) You can read, play or do other stuff with your smartphone while on the ride.

      Just because your government fails at so many levels it doesn't mean the rest of the world needs to follow.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        Helsinki #20
        Ranked #19 in 2012
        Movie Ticket: $16.00
        Can of soda: $2.29
        Dozen eggs: $4.75
        Beer at a bar: $11.66

        you can find a beer for 5 dollars if you walk a bit from downtown though.

        HOWEVER.. these(custom route) bus services are mainly for older people, who don't have a car or are not in shape to drive or don't have license. Helsinki being one of the few places in Finland where public transportation works and is generally affordable.

      • sounds like AC has never traveled or lived in a real city (outside the USA)

        our gov should tax our gas to the point where we're all using public/shared transit. or at least smaller more efficient vehicles. and bikes. and our feet.

    • by 21mhz (443080)

      With any luck, our government will also tax our gas to the point where paying $10 to wait for a bus in the rain and then ride in it with random strangers for an hour all over the town will make more sense than driving directly there in comfort of your own car in 15 minutes.

      You don't need the government for that. Rising oil prices may do this sooner than we all switch to electric cars, natgas, or something else. Pretty much every datum in your rainy day scenario is sheer hyperbole as far as Helsinki capital area is concerned. Car commute is pretty fast, but if you need to park downtown, you'd need to spend extra time and money. Kutsuplus also drives you almost door to door, and you can come up to the pickup point at the prearranged time without waiting, or even track the bus i

  • Neat (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    They should do the same thing with trains.

  • Why this is news? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @12:54AM (#45140259)

    I don't know why this is news, you could do this around 15 years ago, with only exception being that you had to call them instead of using a smartphone app (I actually used similar travel to go to school for couple years around 98/99).

  • by Animats (122034) on Wednesday October 16, 2013 @01:21AM (#45140333) Homepage

    Silicon Valley had that from 1974 to 1976. [google.com] It was called "Dial a RIde". It was a popular service, but too expensive to provide. The hope was that there would be enough people going in roughly the same directions that the small buses used would fill up. But it turned out that there wasn't enough commonality of destination. Everybody wanted to go some place different, and the buses often had one passenger.

    Most successful van systems have a common source or destination - a school or airport. Without some concentrating factor, cabs or cars are more effective.

    • by Trepidity (597)

      One thing that may help Helsinki is that it's considerably more compact than Silicon Valley. The region covered by this system is about a 5 mi x 5 mi rectangle, which in Helsinki is actually considered a large area, covering most of the city, and about 750,000 people. Silicon Valley, by contrast, has distances frequently in the 20-30 mile range (say, Mountain View to SFO), and there is no 5x5 mi area that has a population as high as 750,000. It's just too sprawling.

      • by fatphil (181876)
        Looking at the map, the region doesn't even cover all of Helsinki, missing out Hertoniemi and anything further east, even if it includes important population centres in Espoo such as Leppavaara and Otaniemi. So I'd be surprised by your 750000 figure. Almost certainly over half a million though. But of course, you're correct about the compactness.
  • A system can not be "public" if it is discriminating against people who don't carry mobile phones that can run the app that is required.

    • You've obviously never been to Finland: *everybody* has a cell phone there - preferably from Nokia in the Oulu area ;)

      • by fatphil (181876)
        And I would add that this has been the case for about 20 years too. There was 98% penetration back in the mid 90s.
      • by hughk (248126)

        *everybody* has a cell phone there - preferably from Nokia in the Oulu area

        You know, that was what told me that Nokia was doomed. Three years ago, I was staying at the Radisson in Espoo, and I (a non Finn) was the only one there with a Nokia (E71, IIRC), about a couple of km from their world HQ. In the Espoo based company that I was visiting, the standard phone was an iPhone. My Nokia lasted until the end of that year when I went Android!

    • by profplump (309017)

      I'm not sure what you read that said the system wouldn't allow access from any IP-capable device or even by phone. Most bus systems already provide telephone access to dispatchers (for services much like this) and there's no reason to think this service would be excluded from that existing interface.

    • Anyone can buy a phone. So it's a public system with a relatively high entry cost.

    • by Dysproxia (584031)
      The required app is called a web browser and as I understand you can install it on most platforms available ever.
  • at night when the normal busses dont travel any more you can call a special cab which picks you up at a bus station and drops you off anywhere you want (in the city limits) for a fixed price. However here the lead time is much longer (30 minutes).

  • Driving always entails risks.
    But if you put 1000 cars/buses on the road, driving under your algorithm, you are going to kill people.They might be your fault, for not programming perfect, or they might be completely unavoidable. Either way, there is no way to estimate how the public (read media) will react and who they will hold responsible. Even if you are completely legally un-responsible, that does not mean your life will not be ruined.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      These are *not* self-driving vehicles, and you're a moron.

  • ... like the one in Halting State [wikipedia.org], where I can get on a bus and then outbid all the other riders to direct it where I want to go.

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