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Sunday, May 29, 2011

Jack Bogdanki comments on the talking bus fiasco

They worked about as well as WES

Tri-Met has abandoned its odd experiment to have a robotic voice on the outside of its buses automatically announce each turn the bus makes. Apparently they had the squawk boxes hooked up to the steering wheel of the bus, set to go off on a full turn of the wheel, and the system couldn't tell whether the bus was turning or just pulling in or out of traffic.
It is not surprising that that didn't work. But assuming that one thinks it's a good idea, why not hook it up to the turn signal? The little lever that the bus driver uses to illuminate the signals could have two stops in each direction -- the first one without the announcement, and the second one with.
Of course, that would require the drivers to use the signals, and even learn new devices, which might defeat the purpose. Part of the original system seemed designed to warn pedestrians and cyclists even when the driver was screwing up -- as one did with horrible results in the incident that initiated the latest flap about dangerous turns.
In any event, we think the robots, which were on some of Tri-Met's lines for about three months, should get a week to say goodbye. Every time the wheel turns, they could say something in the nature of a valedictory. Like "I'm retiring with free medical care for life." Or "So long -- this bus route won't be here much longer, either." Or "As you could tell, I never liked dealing with you, but the pay was great."
Then they can be re-deployed on other government vehicles -- the mayor's pickup truck, Earl the Pearl's SUV, and Fireman Randy's flotilla of custom-built fireboats, to name a few.

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