Tablet use is not only rising in the general public; paratransit and human service transportation are also taking advantage of the convenience of the mobile devices
. Android and Samsung tablets are now being used as Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs), Ryan Larsen, president, IntelliRide, a human service transportation division of Veolia Transportation
, says. Many MDTs are now being deployed using Android and Samsung Galaxy tablets, which Veolia uses. The equipment is easy for drivers and other staff to use.
“Where don’t see somebody with a tablet of some kind? Everybody is pretty comfortable with that technology,” Larsen says.
Android tablets hit the human services transportation market a couple years ago, and have been a game-changer ever since, he adds. One benefit is that Google and Android provide an open source platform for the proliferation of web applications allowing providers to monitor customer service agents, or conduct accident investigations, giving a camera to a supervisor and sending them out with a Web app instead of having everything handwritten.
Tablets also cut costs on investing in equipment. A paratransit agency that has an older MDT may have four or five devices in the compartment with the driver. The Android eliminates that duplication of efforts, Larsen points out. For example, an application that records directly on that Android tablet could be used for the driver pre-tip inspection form.
“Everything is right there in the driver’s hands and you don’t have multiple applications and devices in the front of the vehicle,” he adds. “It’s one device, it’s affordable. As the device wears out, you just get a new version for literally pennies on the dollar for what you paid on all these others combined.”
Lack of durability was first seen as a major drawback, but that has not proven to be the case. The tablets are durable, Kent says, and in the rare event they do need to be replaced, it’s a straightforward process of getting a new one out into the field so the wiring isn’t as big a deal.
“Wiring harnesses under the older MDTs could be really cost prohibitive from a maintenance standpoint,” he recalls. “We stripped an MDT down [and] counted all the wires. In an older model it was like 146 wires had to be connected to get this thing in the vehicle. That’s pretty daunting for a mechanic and maintenance staff, if you’ve got 50 vehicles and you have to [install] all those and make sure they’re all operating correctly. You have to really be on top of your maintenance game. Androids are plug and play and inexpensive.”
Securing tablets in the vehicle is easy, using mounting equipment from RAM Mounting Systems, which makes the equipment for police cruisers, boats and now for Android tablets, according to Larsen. The tablets can also be locked if an operator is concerned that the device is going to walk away with staff.
Manufacturers and software developers are also responding to safety concerns agencies from agencies, Larsen says.
“What happens if a driver is looking at the screen while they’re driving? [Some] software manufacturing developers are creating feature functionality that prevents the tablet from operating while the vehicle is in motion. They use the native technology in the tablet, so when the vehicle starts moving it locks the screen.”