Interoperability in public transport

My standard? Your standard? Our standard!

How can innovative technologies be used to make public transport more efficient while at the same time contribute to an improved image and higher market share? The research project EBSF_2 addresses this question and focusses on the topic of interoperability.

Foundation has been laid

ESBF logo

In the first project “European Bus System of the Future” (EBSF), the research team laid the foundation in answering this question. From 2008 to 2013, they examined how to make the operation of public transport with buses more attractive. Even then, INIT was already one of the project partners. One of the most significant results for INIT was the prototypical implementation of standardised communication protocols both within the vehicle and between the vehicle and the control centre. With the help of these protocols, components from different manufacturers should be able to communicate with each other, thus achieving interoperability.

Interoperability under close scrutiny

As part of Horizon 2020, the biggest EU research and innovation programme ever, the follow-up project EBSF_2 will now be used to put the results of the predecessor project into practice at various transport companies. The aim is to further advance the previous prototypical implementations so that they can also be used in real operations. In 13 demonstration projects, transport companies, various industry partners and scientific facilities are working together to come up with findings that can be incorporated into standardisation. INIT is involved in two of the demonstration projects.

Demonstration project: operations

At Transport for London (TfL), the focus is on proving the interoperability of different operating systems through the use of standard interfaces. It is planned to transfer the planning data to an operations control system based on the European standard for planning data NeTEx. In turn, the operations control system is to take over data provision of the vehicle on-board computers by means of standardised interfaces. During operation, the on-board computers then exchange up-to-date information (e.g. location information) with the operations control system via a radio interface to be standardised as part of the project. The operations control system, in turn, communicates the corresponding realtime data on the basis of the SIRI standard to other back-end systems.

In addition to INIT, four other manufacturers of on-board computers and operations control systems are involved in the implementation of this method.

While working on the project, several problems have been identified which are contrary to the basic objective to prove interoperability through the use of international standards. For example, in the set-up of the NeTEx standard, too many peculiarities were taken into account – resulting in a standard of having too many degrees of freedom. This makes it impossible to ensure that the communication partners actually “understand” each other when using the standard. In order to counteract this, the research team is currently developing country-specific profiles in order to ensure data exchange at least on a national level.

Demonstration project: vehicle-internal communication

In the test lab, the second demonstration project focuses on the implementation of a framework architecture for further functions of vehicleinternal-communication as well as on the adaptation of existing specifications. For example, requirements are being gathered with which the BusFMS standard of the vehicle manufacturers will be expanded in order to obtain usable information more easily directly from the powertrain of the vehicle. A “multi-application driver terminal” (MADT) is also in focus. The aim is an independent control panel which can display information to the driver from various IP-based sources in the vehicle. This should resolve the tight interlocking of the on-board computer and the driver display which is common today. In the future, control panels can effortlessly be replaced, for example, to make it easier to keep up with technical progress.

The findings from these two demonstration projects are to be incorporated directly into the European standardisation. INIT is also part of the standardisation committees relevant for these initiatives.


Gunnar Rehbein

Manager Technology
init SE