Capabilities of the In-Vehicle Components

An Overview of myAvail In-Vehicle Capabilities

The In-Vehicle system provides a single point of operator logon through the Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). The operator enters their operator ID and block or run number to allow the MDT to automatically interact with

  • Destination Sign to set the correct text as needed
  • Farebox to set driver ID, run, route, direction, trip and to change these values as needed
  • Door Signals to determine if the door is open or closed
  • Vehicle Status through J1939 to transmit in real-time vehicle status information as needed

Entering a block or run number along with the GPS calculated vehicle location and time of day provides the MDT the information necessary to determine all the stops and expected

departure times for that vehicle’s intended work for that day. The MDT monitors the vehicle location and performs actions when the vehicle gets to each defined stop. The MDT determines when the vehicle is at a defined stop through a concept Avail refers to as a “Trigger Box”. A trigger box is a logical construct placed around each stop, which is maintained through the Geographic Tools tab. The MDT uses current GPS data to determine when the vehicle has entered a trigger box. However, the system must also validate that the trigger box is valid for the intended work based on time of day and direction.

After the system confirms that the vehicle is entering a valid trigger box, the in-vehicle equipment performs various actions, such as making ADA announcements, changing the destination sign and farebox. The trigger box at the end of a trip is the cue to advance to the next trip in the current run. Exiting the trigger box starts additional actions, such as relaying passenger boards and alights and schedule adherence information to myAvail’s backend occur. This process occurs all day long and relieves the operator of that task and allows them to focus on driving.

Stops where the departure time is published to the public are referred to as timepoint stops. The MDT determines the scheduled time to depart this stop, and if that time is in the past and beyond the late threshold parameter value (usually set to 5 minutes), it informs operators how late they are. This is only displayed while the vehicle is at the stop. If the time to depart is in the future, the MDT will indicate to the operator to ‘Wait x Minutes’. In this case the MDT does a countdown to the time to depart and at that time provides an audible and visual indication. When the vehicle departs any stop TB, the MDT sends a stop report back to the central system.

When Avail provides the in-vehicle solution for both paratransit and fixed route systems, operators of both systems enter run numbers at login. Unique run numbers are used between paratransit and fixed route runs. Paratransit logins are forwarded to the property’s paratransit system.

In the Paratransit applications, the MDT handles a slightly different set of functions than for fixed route use, but still provides AVL reports in the same way that a Fixed Route vehicle does. On Paratransit vehicles, the MDT tracks the vehicle location, uses GPS to determine the mileage that the vehicle has traveled and delivers that information to the central system when certain events occur. These events include arrivals, performs, and no-shows which are submitted to the central system by operator interaction with the MDT. As is the case with the Fixed Route vehicles, when any of these events occur AVL data is also sent to the central system.

NOTE: Support by Avail for an in-vehicle Paratransit interface is a legacy feature. Currently this feature is unavailable on our latest in-vehicle equipment, however support for paratransit continues to be available in our latest myAvail server-side applications.

In-Vehicle Operational Processes

The following is intended to provide an overview of the features and capabilities that myAvail provides operators.

The following outline is provided to give context to the information provided with the understanding that the operating procedures employed may vary. The following also includes all features and capabilities available from myAvail.

  • When the Operator turns on the ignition
    • All in-vehicle myAvail equipment will power up automatically
    • The MDT will begin an equipment status check of
      • VLU Data Store
      • Flash Disk
      • IEB/IVU
      • Silent Alarm
      • Back-Up Battery
      • APC
      • Farebox
      • Annunciator
      • Destination Sign
    • These internal tests are checking that all the configured devices are able to respond to a status request.
    • The operator Log ON screen is presented
      • The log on process requires cellular connection to the central system
        • With the Vector 530 and Vector 9000 model MDT units; if the vehicle is within wireless range, the logon may take place via the WLAN.
NOTE: The in-vehicle processor is time synced via GPS to ensure accurate schedule adherence calculations. It is critical that the backend servers are synchronized to a Network Time Protocol (NTP) server.
        • The log on process can occur without GPS lock
      • The operator is only required to enter their Operator ID and run or block number (as configured)
        • The Operator ID and run/block number is sent to the central system for validation and storage
          • The system will allow operator log on only within a configurable number of minutes prior to the start time of the run, which is validated at the server. Attempting to log on prior to that valid window will result in an “Invalid Run Id” message.
          • Invalid operator IDs or run numbers will result in a login error on the MDT and operator will need to re-attempt login. If configured dispatch can be notified after a specified number of failures by the operator.
          • There is an option that will validate the operator is assigned to that run and that the run is assigned to that vehicle. The system will prevent log on unless all three are correct.
      • There is an option for a password at log on
      • The operator log-on information is automatically sent to the farebox at the time of logon, if enabled
        • The processor logs the Operator on to the farebox and the destination sign is set. This completes the single point of logon.
        • Failure to log on at a configurable time prior to the scheduled start of a run can trigger an event to the dispatcher. See Pullout in Fixed Route’s Operational Processes.
    • Pre-Trip Option
      • There is an optional set of screens to record the vehicle pre-trip inspection values. These screens are customer configurable. See Inspection Settings.
      • If active the pre-trip screens are required to be completed on the initial startup for the day.
      • The actions required for relief operators is configurable and set up in the initial installation. Consult Avail Support to change these actions.
      • Any failed checks are sent to the backend system for later reporting and an event is provided to dispatch in real-time.
    • Required Pre-Trip Checks
      • As part of the login process, several pre-checks are provided for the operator to confirm the proper operation of the announcement system, the APC unit (if on the vehicle), and the wheelchair lift. The wheelchair lift must be deployed during this login process or a non-cycled wheelchair event is sent to dispatch.
    • Vehicle logon messages are sent to the CAD/AVL dispatch system. For paratransit vehicles, the logon/logoff messages are forwarded to the paratransit system.
    • Destination Sign Updated at Log On
      • Route and destination codes are sent from the processor to the destination sign as required.
      • The codes are sent to the front destination headsign and, if the vehicle is equipped with a side or rear sign, the destination sign is responsible for relaying that information to those signs. Schedule data includes headsign codes for patterns for all trips including “deadhead” trips.
      • The existing headsign controller interface can continue to be used by the operator.
    • Farebox is Updated at Log On
      • Operator, Route and associated fare information is provided to the farebox upon MDT log on.
      • If farebox alarms are activated by the GFI system, the processor will detect the issuance of such events from the farebox and send indicators to the CAD/AVL system that result in a dispatch event.
      • The GFI farebox user interface can continue to be used to override any settings made during the log on process.
NOTE: The fareboxes in use must support a physical J1708 interface, which is the interface between the CAD/AVL in-vehicle system and the farebox. License and support service fees for the J1708 interface are required. Avail will work with farebox provider to ensure the fareboxes are properly configured to support the J1708 interface.
  • What happens when the vehicle starts moving?
    • The Automated MDT Screen Lockout Functionality is engaged
      • When the vehicle is above a configurable speed, certain buttons and the six softkeys can be disabled on an individual basis. These functions are:
        • Full Screen
        • RTT/PRTT
        • Public Safety Messages
        • Audible alerts
        • Pop-up Messages
      • The following can be set independently for Fixed Route and paratransit vehicles:
        • Speed Limit at which to lockout or enable functions
        • Number of seconds at or above speed limit to activate lockout
        • Number of seconds below speed limit to deactivate lockout
      • The following are paratransit only settings that can be configured:
        • The ‘Map To’ button can be either enabled or locked out while in the Lockout mode
        • The distance (in feet) to the location of the pick-up or drop-off within which the number of seconds to deactivate regardless of speed.
    • The fixed route vehicle reports location
      • The reporting of vehicle location is a triggered event.
      • AVL reports include location, date time, direction of travel, speed, vehicle ID, operator ID, route, run and trip information.
      • AVL reports are generated for the following events:
        • Vehicle ignition changes state (on to off or off to on)
        • The operator logs on to a specific run or block
        • A maximum time interval has elapsed since the last communication (default 60 seconds)
        • The vehicle has traveled a maximum distance since the last communication (default ¼ mile)
        • The vehicle has exited a stop trigger box
        • The operator sends a message to Dispatch
        • The operator puts the vehicle in “Manual Announcement mode”, “Out of Service” or “Driver Off” state
        • The operator logs off
      • If cellular communications are temporarily lost, the AVL reports will be stored on the processor for the configurable keep alive time until a network connection is re-established with the CAD/AVL system (either WLAN or cellular), at which time any such stored messages are transmitted. Critical messages, such as the stop reports, do not expire. Consequently, these messages are stored until communications are restored.
    • The internal sign will display
      • Date/Time
      • Destination
    • When the stop cord or wheelchair stop/lift request button is activated, the announcement system will play the defined ‘stop requested’ announcement and display the appropriate text on the internal Sunrise sign.
  • What happens as the vehicle approaches a stop?
    • The MDT detects when the vehicle enters a predetermined area or Trigger Box (TB) around a given stop.
      • A specific angle of entry can be assigned to the TB to prevent announcements when the vehicle goes through the TB more than once in different directions, such on the out bound trip then on the return in bound trip.
      • See Fixed Route Schedule Data Input/Modification Process for an overview of schedule data entry.
    • When an announcement action has been assigned to the TB, the processor will send a code to the announcement system within the IVU to play a specific pre-recorded message and display any defined text on the internal sign.
      • The base volume level of announcements is set by global configuration parameters defined during the system installation. These values can be changed by contacting Avail Support.
        • An Automatic Gain Control (AGC) microphone is also installed midway inside the fixed route vehicles to monitor the ambient noise level inside the vehicle at any time.
        • The AGC microphone will allow the annunciator to automatically alter the volume level, if necessary, based on the ambient noise inside the vehicle.
        • Exterior announcement has two volume settings one for daytime volume level, and one for nighttime volume level, and a setting for the time of transition.
      • The announcement system also serves as the PA microphone amplifier
      • The operator also has the option on the MDT to select a public safety message to play, and can also use the microphone to make verbal announcements
      • The announcement system adheres to an order of precedence for the various announcements that may occur on a given vehicle. The highest to lowest order is listed below:
        • Operator PA Microphone
        • Stop Requested
        • Automated Stop Announcements (will repeat if interrupted by a stop request)
        • Public Service Announcements
        • The operator can use the PA microphone to interrupt any announcement
    • Route and destination codes are sent from the processor to destination sign as required
      • The codes are sent to the front destination headsign and, if the vehicle is equipped with a side or rear sign, the destination sign is responsible for relaying that information to those signs.
      • The existing headsign controller interface can continue to be used by the operator
    • Operator, Run, Route, Trip and associated fare information is provided to the farebox upon processor detecting a trip change.
      • If the route changes during the run, the updated route is sent to the farebox
        • There is an option to send location data to the farebox upon door open events
      • If farebox alarms are activated by the GFI system, the processor will detect the issuance of such events from the farebox and send indicators to the CAD/AVL system that result in a dispatch event
      • The GFI farebox user interface can continue to be used to override any settings made during the log on process
    • Schedule status provided to operator
      • At stops where the departure time is published to the public and the departure of the trigger box (TB) is in the future x minutes from the current time, the status line on the MDT will indicate ‘Wait -x min’ with a countdown to time to depart. When the time for departure is reached, a notification with auditable alarm pop-up will tell the operator ‘Time to Depart’.
      • If the scheduled departure is already past x minutes, the status line will indicate ‘Late x min’ indicating the operator should depart as soon as possible.
        • The amount of time the operator is late is cleared after leaving the trigger box and their schedule status is displayed again when the vehicle reaches the next published stop on the trip.
      • The system is configurable to establish the On-Time range
      • The On-Time range is set with two separate parameters. For example:
        • A vehicle that is more than zero minutes ahead of schedule is declared EARLY (The number of minutes is configurable)
        • A vehicle that is more than 5 minutes behind schedule is declared LATE (The number of minutes is configurable)
NOTE: When a vehicle is off-route, the trigger boxes can’t be entered. Consequently, all the proceeding actions are bypassed. The system will automatically detect when the vehicle returns to on-route status.
  • Various On Request in-vehicle functions
    • Request to Talk (RTT), and Priority Request to Talk (PRTT)
      • Buttons are available on the MDT, which send a message to the dispatcher. This option is configurable but can be used on an open-mic system, this can help reduce radio traffic and allows some prioritization of talk requests.
    • Text Messaging
      • The text messaging feature can be accessed by the operator from the MDT’s home screen, but there are several ways in which an operator may access the different features of the text messaging function. An audible tone is generated when a text message is received by the processor. Up to ten text messages are stored on the processor at a time, with the oldest message removed when an eleventh message is received.
        • The ‘MSG’ soft key (Touch screen button) presents options to send or read text messages
        • To Send a text message, the operator selects from a prepared list of messages
        • Existence of un-read, or read but undeleted, text messages is indicated on the MDT’s home screen
        • An ‘INBOX’ soft key (Touch screen button) is also available on the MDT’s home screen, and provides quick access to messages received from dispatch
        • The dispatcher has the option to request either an acknowledgement or a yes/no answer from an operator when sending a text message; the operator is shown buttons to provide this response when reading the particular message
    • How to Alert dispatch of an emergency
      • Each vehicle can be equipped with an emergency alarm button used to covertly alert the dispatcher to serious situations that might occur on the vehicle
      • When the button is depressed for > .5 seconds, the dispatcher is notified via a large ‘Emergency’ icon, along with an audio alarm
      • The emergency signal can also activate an emergency setting on the radio system, if the radio system is capable
      • AVL reports for the affected vehicle are sent to the fixed-end with a higher frequency (the rate is configurable)
      • Vehicle Operators are discreetly informed of the Dispatcher’s acknowledgement action
      • If vehicles are equipped with a covert microphone, dispatchers can activate a covert microphone on the vehicle and listen to audio on the vehicle.
        • Vehicle operators are also discreetly informed of the covert microphone activation.
        • The covert microphone can be activated only after the operator has pressed the emergency alarm.
      • The dispatcher can close the Emergency Alarm event, which will disable the covert microphone
      • The Emergency Alarm button can also send a signal to the headsign that causes it to display its emergency mode message (e.g., ‘Call 911’)
      • Automatic vehicle announcements continue to occur normally when the EA button is activated
    • Transfer Connection Protection Feature
      • This provides the option for an operator on one vehicle to indicate a passenger desires a transfer to another route. The MDT will send the transfer request, and the central system will determine if the transfer can be supported and send a message to the receiving route’s vehicle if it can. Further details of this process are in the fixed route operator manual. Read Critical Transfers for more information.
  • Paratransit specific features
    • The paratransit functionality of the MDT includes the ability to launch a navigation application for automatic directional guidance with speech functionality. For each manifest entry, the user can select a ‘Map To’ button that will automatically launch the navigation application and start route calculation and guidance, including audio turn cues. The operator can choose to exit the navigation application at any time and will be returned to the screen from which the navigation application was launched. The audio cues are a configurable option that can be activated or de-activated by the operator.
    • Manifest information is provided from the paratransit system to the CAD/AVL system, which is transmitted to the appropriate paratransit vehicle. Configuration settings control how many manifest entries are provided to the MDT at a given time. Updates to the existing manifest entries are sent to the MDTs, with changes to existing manifest entries highlighted with an asterisk character. The vehicle operator is provided options for performing and arriving the trip entries on the manifest, as well as pull-out, pull-in, and no-show options. The system can be configured to allow grouping of trips, such that a single drop off action can be done for multiple trips. The system can be configured to allow the operator to update the odometer value prior to sending a pickup, drop off, and cancel at door or no-show message.
    • A configurable radius can be defined that will prevent an arrival event from being performed by the operator unless within the specified radius value of the manifest entry address.
    • The AVL reporting rate is generally set the same as fixed route but can be set independently. AVL reports can also be sent after a configurable amount of distance has been traveled since the last issuance of a report.
    • AVL reports are also included when any event occurs that requires an inbound message to be sent from the vehicle to the CAD. The following are some examples of Paratransit events:
      • Logon/Logoff
      • Pull-Out/Pull-In
      • Arrives/Performs/No Shows
      • Canned data message
    • If cellular communications are temporarily lost, all reports will be stored on the MDT until a network connection is re-established with the CAD/AVL system (either WLAN or cellular), at which time any such stored messages are transmitted.
NOTE: Paratransit message types on the MDT each have a “Keep Alive” parameter which determines how long the messages will be saved on the MDT. If the “Keep Alive” time expires the reports will be lost. Please contact Avail Support to adjust these parameters.
NOTE: Support by Avail for an in-vehicle Paratransit interface is a legacy feature. Currently this feature is unavailable on our latest in-vehicle equipment, however support for paratransit continues to be available in our latest myAvail server-side applications.
  • MDT shut down process
    • The MDT power-off sequence is initiated by ignition off. A backup battery is included to keep the Avail system and the MDT powered for a period of time after ignition off. This provides time for Bulk Download data transfers to after a vehicle is powered off, and to allow operators to turn off a vehicle for a brief period while keeping the MDT powered on. Configuration parameters exist to control how long the in-vehicle system remains on after the vehicle is powered off. Two parameters exist - one controls how long the MDT remains on when an operator is logged in, and the other controls the on duration when the operator is logged off.

Operator's Part in Firmware Updates

Short answer is NONE.

The firmware and configuration of the IVU is normally updated via the Bulk Download Server/IVU Updater feature. In the absence of this feature, update the IVU directly with a laptop. The Vehicle Files tab is used to schedule such updates, and when the vehicle is in range of the Access Point, the code and/or configuration updates are transferred to the vehicle automatically.

NOTE: In-vehicle equipment with software or firmware that requires updates has changed over time. Initially the control head that provided the user interface also provided most of the processing capability and required most of the software updates. Over time the IEB (Interface Expansion Box) was upgraded with more processing capabilities and renamed the IVU (In-vehicle Unit) and much functionality was consolidated in this unit. The trend continued to the point where almost all processing is done in the IVU 3/vehicle computer and the MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) is just a touch screen monitor with no processing functions. However, Avail’s support for backward compatibility creates situations where properties have different combinations of in-vehicle equipment.


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