Carnegie Mellon spinoff receives funding to commercialize transit app

U.S. Department of Transportation approves SBIR support for crowdsourced transit info

Blog Entry June 26, 2012
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Tiramisu Transit LLC, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff, has received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) to commercialize Tiramisu, the smartphone application that enables transit riders to create real-time information about bus schedules and seating.


The $102,000 award, through the U.S. DOT's Federal Transit Administration and its Research and Innovative Technology Administration, will be used to identify sustainable business models for crowd-sourced transit information systems.


Tiramisu has been in use in Pittsburgh since the summer of 2011 and is available for iPhone and Android phones. Thus far, users have recorded more than 30,000 trips on Port Authority of Allegheny County buses and trains.


Tiramisu—literally, Italian for "pick me up"—was developed by researchers in the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation (RERC-APT), supported in part by CMU's Traffic21 initiative. It currently works only for the Port Authority and CMU systems, but the software architecture is designed so that it can be deployed to other transit systems. The team will be adding another region soon.


Even before a user boards a vehicle, Tiramisu displays the nearest stops and a list of buses or light-rail vehicles that are scheduled to arrive. The list includes arrival times, based either on real-time reports from current riders, from historic data or from the transit service schedule. Once aboard, the user indicates whether many, few or no seats are available and then presses a button, causing the phone to share its ongoing GPS trace with the Tiramisu server. Tiramisu also can be used to report problems, positive experiences and suggestions.


The Tiramisu team is led by Aaron Steinfeld, co-director of RERC-APT and senior systems scientist in the Robotics Institute; Anthony Tomasic, senior systems scientist in the Institute for Software Research; and John Zimmerman, associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute and the School of Design.



Source: Carnegie Mellon University

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