Pittsburgh has deployed GPS units to allow residents to track where plow trucks have been. But simply monitoring public works vehicle movements is only a partial solution.
Of itself, this doesn’t look like a big story, especially given that the most important part that answers the question “Where’s my plow?” hasn’t yet been completed. But they fact that they are going to offer that is awesome. I imagine in a cold winter and many parts of North America and Europe have had one so far this winter, this information could have a huge impact on how they travel.
I have many memories of walking or sliding my bike to school on snow filled roads and cars pointing in all the wrong directions when they tried to drive before the road was made ready for them.
The bigger story to me is about Government sharing data with their citizens and through the advent of Google Maps, maps on mobiles, mobile applications, people are sharing data amongst each other and when it comes to what Government services are, or aren’t doing is often subjective. One of the problems we have with crowd sourced data sharing is currency. the DOT might send out a twitter message about a crash on a freeway and it gets retweeted by other people. That’s great when it’s current, but not when the incident has been cleared 2 hours earlier and road users are making decisions without going back to the official source.
If a snow plow is seen to be working on a particular street and residents all start telling each other, perhaps because the know the usual route, that it will be ok to drive, but the plow is taken to another location where the problem is worse, the crowd sourced data can end up being wrong. So the concept of an official map based site and hopefully it is responsive, i.e. works on mobile devices such as phones and tablets, we have a powerful solution that will save a lot of time and money, including for call centers and people trying to plan their day.
The same could apply to so many services. Where are the road maintenance crews working, where are the rubbish trucks, recycles, street cleaners etc. working? Where is the school bus (or any public transport for that matter. You may not agree with Uber, but they provide a lot more information that most of the taxi companies who are righteous about their disapproval. The list goes on and this sort of positive information sharing is something that everyone should be using, starting with any business units that already have GPS tracking in them (where appropriate of course).
In the field of travel information, research has shown that customers are appreciative and their behaviors much more reasonable, when they know for example that the reason they are stuck in a serious traffic jam because up ahead someone has had a serious injury and the road has been closed to make the victims, witnesses, emergency and road maintenance crews and then restore the road conditions to normal. In many cases they then have choices such as delay their journey, look for an alternative route, or proceed with caution.
I wonder how many calls a day are made to call centers to ask “where is my plow?”, “where is the rubbish truck?”, “where is Johnny because the bus was due at the end of my drive 15 minutes ago?” I wonder how many of these calls could be saved, with mapping solutions that have all the information you need. I can’t imagine why Government isn’t rushing into these, because pretty much every installation that is done properly, looking at all the value uses, not just monitoring the manner in which a vehicle is driven, or telling the fleet operations manager where is, would have a return on investment of months rather than years, not to mention that it is always good to have happy customers.