How First Bus’ Revolutionary App is Keeping Key Workers and the UK Moving

This is how we created a revolutionary COVID-19 solution for the First Bus mobile app.

Future Platforms and First Bus have revolutionised the First Bus app with the first technology of its kind in the UK.

Although the transport industry has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic, service providers are finding ways to address the impact it has by providing digital solutions and improved services. One of these solutions is the First Bus app which comes with ingenious feature updates to help commuters social distance and keep safe on journeys.

The existing app has been significantly improved and the bus route screen has been given a complete overhaul to address the current challenges the public is facing due to the current pandemic. As COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on the transport industry, the company has been looking to introduce innovative features to keep services running, while making it safe for passengers to get on-board.

In addition to live tracking of its buses on a map, the First Bus app now includes live seating and wheelchair capacity information for the number of passengers on most services. The latest app updates, which were launched this week, include new bus icons on the route map detailing the live location and the available capacity of each vehicle. No other UK bus operator has integrated this kind of functionality into their app as of yet, so it is a tremendous achievement by Future Platforms and First Bus to be leaders in this space.

This is just another way that First Bus has shown how technology can be used to assist safe and informed travel during the current climate. It shows how committed First Bus is to keeping the UK moving, and particularly key workers who are the ones that rely most on public transport at this time.

Capacity tracking is first of its kind and adds peace of mind

These new app features ensure that those who travel can feel safe, knowing that their journeys will be socially-distanced. Seats on the buses are clearly marked to indicate where passengers should sit, which helps commuters make informed decisions.

First Bus already offers the ability to make cashless payments for most routes through the app, which ensures that journeys are as contactless as possible. First Bus and Future Platforms have always had customers front-of-mind and continue to find new ways of helping passengers complete their journeys in the most seamless, efficient, and safest way possible.

This innovative new feature has been in the works since April of this year when First Bus introduced passenger counting mechanisms onboard their vehicles. Data from this system feeds directly into the app in real-time and adds live capacity updates to the existing live bus tracking in the app. There will generally be a cap on the number of people allowed on each bus at any given time; this will vary depending on bus size as well as the current government guidance on social distancing. When the app receives this live capacity information, as well as the current occupancy of each vehicle, it calculates and displays the number of available seats and wheelchair spaces so users can make an informed decision while they wait for their bus.

Buses are an essential service for many in the UK, and through this partnership we are doing everything we can to further support passengers during these difficult times.

Innovative new features help passengers and drivers

As well as supporting social distancing and the contactless completion of journeys, First Bus has added live wheelchair capacity information to the app.

The live departure board will also show how many seats are available and how many spaces are available for wheelchair users. Cameras installed on buses will track how many passengers board or disembark from the bus, which directly helps monitor the number of seats available. If a camera has not yet been fitted on the bus, seat monitoring is done by the driver using a plus or minus button on the ticket machine that adds or removes people as they get on or off the bus.

The live location tracker on the app, which shows you where the bus is currently located, also displays the number of seats and wheelchair spaces available.

The Future Platforms team has worked hard to deliver these app features which are imperative for safe bus travel around the UK. It being the first of its kind is a tremendous achievement by First Bus and Future Platforms.

The First Bus appThe First Bus app

The proof is in the pudding as well - the customer feedback from these new improvements so far has been tremendous. People who genuinely rely on these services are extremely happy about having a safer way to travel, particularly key workers.

"Back to 5 stars after [the] reinstatement of the live next bus feature. New capacity update is a fantastic tool for us key workers, [who are] wanting to make sure we can get to and from work on time!"

– Helen Hart review on the Google Play store

"Loving the live tracker! Fantastic to know where a bus is and watch it moving on the map!”

– David Cox review on the Google Play store

As well as pleasing end-users, First Bus has had talks with the drivers’ union, who were worried about busses going over capacity and this being a threat to health and safety. This seamless solution solves these worries about bus drivers’ working conditions. In one elegant stroke, this solution solves the needs of passengers, drivers, and all aspects of the bus ecosystem.

This update from Future Platforms and First Bus forms an important part of our ongoing work to improve customer experience and exceed expectations across the transport industry. This is just the beginning too – we always strive to improve travel, so stay tuned for further updates in the works, coming soon.