Adding touchscreen functionality to an AVL system provides an extra, dynamic level of sophistication. The technology allows operators to both view and input information versus passively transmitting data with no operator visibility.
The decision to utilize touchscreen features with an AVL system is dependent on the needs of your organization. If you only require the receipt of data points such as location, speed and engine codes then a basic AVL system might suffice. However, if you are seeking to communicate with the vehicle operator, or require operator input of data, then a touchscreen could be the right fit. Below are some of the items to consider regarding justification of a touchscreen on an AVL system.
Benefits of using a Touchscreen
Need for real-time communications with the operator– With a screen in the cab, operators can use the AVL system to both send and receive time critical information. Instead of downloading the information when they return, operators and administrators can view a wide variety of metrics as they are on the road.
Location Visibility– For the Delcan Technologies snow-plow application, buttons and interface elements on the screen can be minimized facilitating a GPS based weather map. Drivers have a full view of imminent weather in the vehicle. Vehicle status icons can be maximized at will. Having a custom map application, complete with geo-fencing data, helps ensure operators are in the proper zone and, in the case of snow, are applying the deicing material in the proper location.
Snow treatment and removal visibility- The Delcan Technologies Intelligent Snow Plow MDC system provides the operator with accuracy of blade position and material distribution. Additionally, with additional sensors, the operator can monitor when the gate is open and material is flowing. The MDC can monitor multiple sensors providing the operator with peace of mind of the job they are performing.
Delcan Technologies, a Parsons company, helps identify user needs and creates solutions that optimizes the investment in their MDC solution.
Automated Vehicle Location and Maintenance Decisions Support System Project
Tim Croze, P.E.
Region Support Engineer
Michigan Department of Transportation, Lansing, Michigan
Member, APWA Winter Maintenance Subcommittee
Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) is a means of managing a fleet of vehicles using a global positioning system (GPS). Already in widespread use in the transit, trucking, and emergency response communities, AVL has recently been applied to winter maintenance operations. The goals encompass improving agency efficiency, reducing material usage and decreasing the time spent reporting labor, material and equipment usage.
AVL systems allow a manager to monitor the location of fleet vehicles at any given time and can be a resource management system for managing labor, equipment and materials used for various roadway maintenance functions. In addition to knowing a vehicle’s location, a robust AVL system is capable of capturing and reporting operational data from a snowplow’s on-board systems such as a DICKY-john material controller, as well as other data, including material application rates, air and pavement temperature, and the position of blades and plows. The AVL/GPS and other operational data is displayed in near-real time on a website and also stored for future reporting and data analysis. Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) recently began integrating AVL into its winter maintenance fleet.
The operational data collected by MDOT’s AVL system is processed and automatically fed into a Maintenance Decision Support System (MDSS). The goal of MDSS is to provide a decision support tool for MDOT staff involved in winter maintenance operations. MDSS is used by at least 15 states across the nation. It is a tool that provides location-specific weather forecasts along snowplow routes and predicts how road conditions will change due to forecasted weather. The system recommends the most effective maintenance treatments and application rates and suggested times to apply material to maximize its effectiveness for the snowplow operators. These route-specific treatment recommendations are provided to maintenance garage supervisors on a website as well as transmitted directly to a screen for plow operators to view in near-real time.
The snowplow route treatment recommendations are based on the following information:
- Material type and application rate based on current and predicted weather conditions
- Desired level of service
- Operational limitations
- Type and thickness of pavement materials
The main impetus behind MDOT’s AVL/GPS/MDSS implementation is to provide a tool that will allow maintenance garage supervisors to make more informed decisions on how best to attack an incoming storm using real-time operational data, current and forecasted weather information and scientific models that predict how the forecasted weather will affect road conditions.
MDOT is not the first agency to utilize AVL technology and MDSS services to manage its fleet and winter operations. However, MDOT’s contracting approach, scale of implementation, and accelerated timeframe for initial rollout offers a unique model, which can aid other state or local agencies what wish to leverage the benefits that AVL and MDSS services can provide.
MDOT management determined that the best contracting approach for these types of integrated services is to write the Request for Proposal (RFP) language to be all-encompassing. This means one contract is executed to meet all of the project needs. The RFP that was written and advertised included:
- AVL equipment and services necessary for MDOT’s Winter Maintenance Trucks
- AVL equipment for MDOT’s light fleet
- All necessary communication services
- Management and storage of all data collected
- Statewide MDSS services
- Training for MDOT staff
Under this all-encompassing contact, MDOT works directly with one vendor who is responsible for providing all equipment, securing cellular communications services, and coordinating resources to meet the needs for both AVL and MDSS mapping and reporting. The installation of AVL equipment is performed by MDOT mechanics that have been trained by the vendor.
The schedule for this project has been aggressive, but successful so far. In May 2013, MDOT’s executive leadership authorized funds and gave approval to issue and RFP for the procurement of a comprehensive AVL and MDSS solution for MDOT. The RFP was advertised in June 2013, and a signed contact was executed by mid-September, 2013. As of March 2014 AVL units and auxiliary sensors had been installed on MDOT’s fleet of 2070 snowplows. The AVL and MDSS were commissioned on November 15, 2013 and utilized all winter long by MDOT staff. Even though the systems are new to the department and not all snowplows were instrumented with AVL before winter started there are many anecdotal examples where the MDSS has saved MDOT manpower and money.
A comprehensive cost/benefit analysis of the AVL/MDSS deployment project will be completed after MDOT as had a full winter season with these new technologies.
The NTCIP standard is known as a protocol standard, but also specifies functionality required for field devices. Were it only a protocol standard, it would be possible to test for conformance using only a protocol analyzer. However, the standards that include test procedures always include functional testing also, such as verifying that messages are displayed correctly, cameras move appropriately, or intersection controllers cycle properly. To reflect this requirement that standards should specify functionality, many of the NTCIP standards have now been updated to conform to the Systems Engineering Process, where User Needs are listed, Functional Requirements are defined, and all elements of the final standards are traced back to these two groups of parameters.
Once the standard has been created, a remaining task of the standard is to clearly define mandatory and optional requirements, along with providing a means of communicating between the interested parties what optional requirements are needed by the specifying authority, or implemented by the manufacturer. The section of the standard that is used for this purpose is known as the Protocol Requirements List (PRL). In the standard, the PRL indicates whether a particular Functional Requirement is Mandatory. All Mandatory Functional Requirements must be implemented for a device to be considered conformant to the standard.
Alternately, a Functional Requirement may be listed as Optional, in which case a Specifying Authority can require that this Functional Requirement be supported by selecting “YES” under “Support/Project Requirement” in the PRL table. A field device provider would then be compliant with the Specifying Authority’s Specifications if this Functional Requirement is implemented. Note that the NTCIP standards allow Optional requirements to be conditional on whether other Optional requirements have been selected, ensuring that the selected requirements “hang together” to form a working system.
In addition to being able to select optional conformance requirements, the Specifying Authority can also indicate Additional Project Requirements. For some Functional Requirements guidance has been provided by the standard in the form of fill-in-the-blank statements. In this column the Specifying Authority may also reference separate documents, such as font tables or message lists for Dynamic Message Signs.
Not only can the PRL be used by a Specifying Authority for the purpose of defining their specific needs, but the PRL can also be completed by the manufacturer of the field device to indicate the Functional Requirements supported by their device. The PRL as completed by the manufacturer would then be known as a Protocol Implementation Conformance Statement (PICS). The PICS can then be used for several purposes. It can be used by the Specifying Authority to verify conformance to the standard and compliance with the specification. It can also be used by a third-party test organization to develop the Test Cases necessary to verify conformance and compliance by means of the Test Procedures.
Delcan Technologies, a Parsons Company, employs a full team of NTCIP experts who can guide any entity through the steps to ensure all aspects of implementing an Advanced Traffic Management System is in full compliance will industry standards.
Transportation agencies and businesses that manage fleets are actively exploring the use of AVL and telematics systems. Providers in this field have created a wide range of solutions that range from simple “dots on the map” solutions to complex and powerful options that record and process data.
One challenge when sourcing an AVL system is understanding the differences in terminology and features. Delcan Technologies has prepared a brief overview of the different feature sets to help clarify what is in the market. Take a look…
The Basics: AVL and Telematics
AVL and telematics are considered essentials for fleet management. AVL technology, when paired with telematics, provides fleet managers with a broad view of the status and location of their fleet.
Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)
Generally described as “dots on a map”, AVL enables companies to view the location of their vehicles on a map. This feature is the cornerstone of any location-based system.
In addition to AVL, this capability enables companies to obtain data from the vehicle. Types of information that can be gathered include: idle time, fuel consumption, fault codes, etc.
Beyond the Basics
More robust systems will add additional capabilities into the basic AVL and telematics features. Two common additions are routing and integration with client applications.
Routing takes GPS the extra mile by allowing fleet managers to maximize their fleet’s efficiency and reduce vehicle miles traveled. Depending on deployment, routing can actually provide turn-by-turn directions to the driver, highlighting any out of route driving.
Fleets that operate with with ancillary applications, such as time management systems, and work-order management systems, to name a few, can benefit by integrating their applications into the AVL/Telematics system. Automated time reporting, and billing systems provide payroll accuracy while decreasing the time to receive payment of services rendered.
Advanced Features: MDC Fleet Management
While routing and application integration are powerful features, many organizations require more from their AVL system. These more robust systems utilize Mobile Data Collectors (MDC) and add customized collection, reporting and communication capabilities.
MDC systems allow for custom integration into an ATMS system. This integration feeds immediate notifications to traffic control center. By adding ATMS protocols, vehicles can communicate directly with municipal, regional or state traffic control systems and information is reported immediately.
Precise Material Deployment
Custom defined areas can be established through the use of electronic boundaries and geo-fencing. Precise tracking of material deployment within these areas can be measured and communicated back to vehicle operators.
Predictive Weather Information
Vehicles with MDC capabilities become remote weather stations, providing real-time weather data from locations within operational areas. Controllers can view a live video feed from the vehicle to obtain visual confirmation of weather conditions.
Intelligent Application Thresholds
MDC systems with Maintenance Data Support System (MDDS) capabilities facilitate integration with external and third party providers. Examples of MDSS use include integrating a precision weather forecasting company’s service, provide real-time feedback to the driver on treatment levels, locations and times by device.
Knowing the location of your fleet is only the beginning of the information available to you through AVL technology and telematics. Would these features help you organization improve performance? Delcan Technologies welcomes the opportunity to assess your business needs and create an integrated solution within your Advanced Traffic Management System infrastructure.