Shepherd leads riders to buses on time


With an infusion of $1.25 million,Shepherd Intelligent Systems LLC in Ann Arbor is aggressively rolling out its proprietary software system that uses GPS-enabled smartphones as tracking devices for bus systems,limousine services and taxicab and shuttle service companies across the country.

Shepherd’s software allows riders using any type of cellphone to get predictions as accurate as 30 seconds from the actual arrival time of the bus or taxi.

Transportation services can use smartphones as inexpensive tracking systems for their fleets,updating vehicle location data every two seconds to help plan routes better and train drivers how to conserve fuel,said Shepherd CEO and co-founder Adrian Fortino.

Shepherd,created two years ago from research at the University of Michigan,posted about $250,000 in revenue last year from fixed fees it charges businesses based on their fleet sizes. The company has seven full-time employees including Fortino’s partner and the company’s chief technology officer,Jahan Khanna. Fortino expects to hire this year to expand the sales and marketing force.

Shepherd’s software is used by customers including UM and Golden Limousine in Ann Arbor,Indiana University-Purdue University
Indianapolis and Crystal Transport in Boston.

About 85 percent of UM bus riders have used the Shepherd Intelligent system in some form over the past year,Fortino said. Riders do not need smartphones to access the system —arrival times can be sent by text message to any cellphone automatically.

An average of about 16,000 text messages have been sent weekly at UM,Fortino said.

He said his company’s system differs significantly from fleet management such as C.J. Hood Co. Inc.‘s automatic vehicle location system,because Shepherd’s does not rely on dedicated hardware to track vehicles. Shepherd uses GPS-enabled smartphones running the Google Android platform as the tracking mechanisms.

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