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Route Reports – smart hazard detection for buses and trains

Potholes and overhanging branches are a common frustration for road users in the UK. However, for bus companies the complaints are far more serious. These hazards endanger passengers and damage vehicles, leading to ongoing repair costs for operators.

Accurate data of hazards would mitigate these problems but until now there has been no simple way of recording incidents beyond imprecise driver reports.

Connell McLaughlin, an Aeronautics and Astronautics student from the University of Southampton, has solved this problem through an innovative Internet of Things solution that is already being trialled by the UK bus industry.

He has founded Route Reports, an embedded sensor system for vehicles that detects and reports hazards on public transport.

The startup’s sensor and processing units upload the exact location of strikes with overhanging branches and potholes along a route, feeding the information to a web-based dashboard at This data is analysed and displayed in a live heat map that illustrates the frequency of incidents, allowing operators to prioritise critical risks and send the information to Local Authorities to address the hazards.

The business emails weekly reports to users and provides pre-made email templates that incorporate the latest data, allowing operators to swiftly and accurately highlight the dangers.

“Using our intelligent analytics, you’ll only be informed when the RouteReporter™ is sure that there’s a potentially costly overhanging branch or pothole on your route,” Connell explains. “For the curious, all of the raw data is still available. In addition to the time and location of the tree strike being reported, you also get told the speed your vehicle collided with the branch.”

With the hazard identified, the company’s RouteReports Resolver then works in conjunction with Local Authorities to help users track the status of issues as they’re repaired.

“No wiring, tools or programming is required to fit either your Internal or External RouteReporter™ units to your vehicle,” Connell adds. “It’s plug and play.”

RouteReporters™ are sold as hardware-as-a-service, which means users have nothing to pay upfront. A simple monthly subscription gives operators access to all their data while the startup maintains and updates the units at no extra cost.

In the UK alone there are around 35,000 buses that can benefit from the product. Route Reports’ service can also address problems for other transport operators, including the haulage and rail industries, where the technology is also being assessed for a variety of potential uses including the detection of hazardous areas of rail, potentially saving rail operators millions every year.

“I’m seeking to connect with people who can help realise the potential of this service, this could be through investment or collaboration on other applications for this great technology,” Connell says, “If this could be you, please get in touch through the contact form on this page.”

Route Reports has started working with its first customers and buses in Berkshire have been installed with the new technology.

John Bickerton, Head of Engineering and Innovation at Reading Buses, explains, “We’re really excited to working with Route Reports. We’re getting information back on where we’re hitting tree branches and finding potholes on the road. We’ve stopped breaking windows as much and are reducing the amount of glass used on our vehicles.”

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Route Reports

Route Reports detects overhanging branches and potholes for bus operators, minimising maintenance costs and the time that vehicles are off the road. The Internet of Things startup was founded by University of Southampton student entrepreneur Connell McLaughlin and is exploring solutions for other industries, including haulage and rail operators.

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