Disagreements, sometimes, brawls between vehicle owners and driver employees date back to when commercial transport was introduced in Ghana.
One of the major issues of contention is mistrust over the daily sales drivers report and submit to their employers.
A vehicle occupancy detection system developed by Computer Engineering students of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) could address the age-old conflict.
According to the Ghana Private Road Transport Union (GPRTU), about 95% of commercial transportation is owned by the private sector.
The system comes with inherent challenges.
“When it comes to passenger occupancy problems, we look at it from three sides: the passenger is concerned about the money he’s paying, the driver is concerned about meeting target and the owner is thinking about amount his vehicle is making and whether is the correct amount,” one of the student innovators, Jamal Issah analyses.
Technologies for determining vehicle passenger occupancy have been tried over time, with varying degree of success.
Jamal and his final-year colleagues, Hassan Maazu and Alfred Adjei, together with their supervisor, Benjamin Kommey, have been searching for solutions.
“There are methods like photogrammetry system which is used to count flow of passengers, there is video and imaging system and the third one is the seat occupancy counting system,” said Mr Kommey.
The group started looking at the seat occupancy system to locate the position of the vehicle and how far each passenger has travelled.
“We can then present to vehicle owner the location of the vehicle and the amount of money made,” added Jamal.
The system consists of capacitive aluminium foils fixed on the seats.
Data is sent via the internet to a server when a passenger sits, and the information received by an Android App.
“So your driver can’t lie to you, ” Hassan stated confidently.
The system is then able to calculate not only occupied seats but gives an idea of the amount made.
The Apps home page has a Map which shows the location of the vehicle and uses a red marker to zoom in the location.
“The owner opens the application to a sign in page which sends him to the main home page which a map. You use the search to search with aid of the red marker. You can, therefore, see the number plate, distance travelled, the number of seats occupied at a particular time, and the amount of money made at a particular time,” said Alfred.
Initial test shows 89% accuracy of the system.
“After testing, we had a total distance of 805 m and when we consulted Google Map it gave us 900 m,” he explained.
The students say over time, the system can be used to plan optimal fleet size so commercial vehicle owners can determine if additional buses are needed or otherwise. A great tool for government agencies like Rapid Bus Transport.