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Carnegie Mellon Spin-Off Gets Transportation SBIR Funding

Tiramisu iPhone start page (Tiramisu Transit LLC)

Tiramisu iPhone start page (Tiramisu Transit LLC)

A company formed by developers of a smartphone program that tracks real-time bus or light rail locations and seating has received a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant to commercialize the app. Tiramisu Transit LLC, a spin-off company formed by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, received the $102,000 award from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The app, called Tiramisu — Italian for “pick me up” — both gives to and collects information from public transportation riders. The app displays the nearest bus or light rail stops, and vehicles scheduled to arrive. The display includes arrival times, based either on real-time reports from current riders, from historic data, or from the transit service schedule.

Once aboard the train or bus, the user indicates whether many, few, or no seats are available and then presses a button, causing the phone to share its ongoing GPS trace with the Tiramisu server. Tiramisu also collect from riders their problems, positive experiences, and suggestions.

Tiramisu was initially developed by the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Accessible Public Transportation (RERC-APT), a joint project of Carnegie Mellon and University at Buffalo, as well as the public transportation services in Pittsburgh and Buffalo. The team that developed Tiramisu includes Carnegie Mellon computer scientists Aaron Steinfeld — also co-director of RERC-APT — Anthony Tomasic, and John Zimmerman.

The SBIR grant will fund initial feasibility and proof-of-concept tests to identify sustainable business models for more generalized crowd-sourced transit information systems. Right now, Tiramisu works only with buses and trains in Pittsburgh and nearby Allegheny county. The developers say the software is designed to be used on other public transportation systems.

Tiramisu is available free of charge and downloadable from the iTunes app store, with a beta-test version available for Android phones.

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