Why just help people find their way around town when you can get them around town, too? That appears to be the question Citymapper is answering now that the app, which helps users navigate various cities’ public transportation systems, is launching a bus line of its own in London. That’s right — this app is going live IRL.
On May 9, Citymapper is debuting what it calls the Citymapper Smart Bus, which will run on an “experimental popup route” named CMX1. Passengers will be able to take the bus from Southwark, which is near the app’s headquarters, to Blackfriars, then head west to Waterloo, before heading back along the south bank. And although Citymapper isn’t building its own bus stops for the route, it is taking you on its own bus — one that probably looks a bit different from what British commuters are accustomed to.
The Smartbus will be rather small, seating just 30 people, and will feature USB charging ports, large displays to tell passengers when to get off, and a tablet interface to help the driver stay abreast of real-time traffic news, passenger numbers, and the distance between vehicles.
As Citymapper noted in a blog post introducing its new bus, “This bus is wired. It’s got tracking software for real-time integration with the app, passenger counting, and a driver app.” The company claims to have “built software for everything, including real-time operational control to driver management to scheduling systems,” and added, “We’re reinventing how to think about all of these in the real-time world. We’ve taken systems that haven’t traditionally talked to each other and integrated them.”
So why is Citymapper embarking on this wild(ly creative) journey? Given that the chief purpose of the app is to help users get around town, Citymapper has quite a bit of insight as to what the obstacles are when it comes to getting from point A to point B. And the company thinks it can improve on that process. In short, Citymapper said, “We found we can figure out how to improve existing routes in all of our cities. We can also identify new and better routes.”
The pilot program in London appears to just be the start to the app’s hopes of improving transportation everywhere. So who knows? You may soon see a Smartbus in a city near you.