Transport app Citymapper is trialling its own bus service in London.
The vehicles used by Citymapper are smaller than other London buses, meaning they can go down streets that are too narrow, or otherwise inaccessible, to other buses.
Citymapper drivers have access to technology which allows them to see where the other vehicles on the route are, allowing them to regulate the service. Sounds impressive, but TfL puts high importance on regulating its service too — and keeping customers updated with bus stop display boards, tweets, its journey planner and the like. TfL also has CentreComm — a dedicated emergency control room for buses.
For passengers, the Smartbus is kitted out with USB charging points (yes please) and screens displaying maps of the route — one step up from the dot matrix screens displaying the next stop on TfL services. But still, is this all more gimmick, as opposed to genuine leap forward in technology?
The first route, which Citymapper trialled during the week commencing 8 May, ran between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge — a central area currently well-served by buses and other transport links.
Citymapper will be experimenting with other routes over the coming weeks, details of which will be announced on the app — but we'd like to see them trialled in a less-central location.
Far from being a rival, Citymapper claims it is working in conjunction with TfL:
They are now supportive as we mutually think about the future of the bus in the city.
The buses are currently free to use, but whether this will stay the case once the trials have finished remains to be seen.
Tech news experts TechCrunch took a ride on one of the early trial buses, and appeared to think highly of the scheme:
If Citymapper rolls its own buses out on a wider scale, that's when the real challenges begin.
Find out more about the Citymapper Smartbus here.