Voice personalization is now a feature on Amazon Alexa for public transit riders. Sean Barbeau, PhD, research faculty in the USF College of Engineering’s Center for Urban Transportation Research utilized a new personalization feature for Alexa to upgrade the OneBusAway skill. The skill can now recognize a user’s voice and link it to a specific bus stop and route. This allows passengers to simply ask “Alexa, where’s my bus?” and get personalized real-time information on arrival times.

OneBusAway is an open-source app that services ten cities, including Tampa, Fla. The corresponding Alexa skill previously couldn’t tell the difference between users’ voices. It can now provide multiple people status updates on their individual routes.

“This really enhances the user experience for households with multiple transit riders. No more switching back and forth between profiles,” said Barbeau.

Barbeau worked closely with Amazon in the feature’s preview program. Barbeau said, “It’s exciting to see OneBusAway being used as a platform for innovation and to collaborate with top talent in the industry.”

Customers can create voice profiles through the Alexa companion app, allowing Alexa to recognize their voice on most Alexa-enabled devices. Users can then access the skill by saying, “Alexa, enable OneBusAway,” followed by “Alexa, learn my voice.” Once their voice profile is set up, the skill will refer to the user by name, helping ensure they catch the right bus. OneBusAway is maintained by the non-profit Open Transit Software Foundation and can regularly be updated by transit agencies, universities and developers.