Ann Arbor’s Shepherd Intelligent Systems Hopes to Move to the Front of the Bus in GPS Fleet-Tracking Biz

12/16/10

If you’ve ever taken a bus … anywhere … then you know all about an unwritten Law of Motion that goes something like this: A body that arrives at a bus stop tends to stay at rest. A long time. A Second Law might state that the velocity of the bus’s arrival is in inverse proportion to how urgently you need to arrive at your destination. The problem, of course, is one of perceived loss of control. You’re at the mercy of the bus schedule, the weather, traffic conditions and numerous other unknown factors. And here is where Ann Arbor, MI startup Shepherd Intelligent Systems steps into the picture, giving bus riders precise knowledge of when that bus will arrive.

The underlying technology, which is of course called the Magic Bus, was developed at the University of Michigan and spun off into a company just last year, with CEO Adrian Fortino in the driver’s seat. Shepherd provides real-time vehicle information directly to passengers who use smart phones and to managers of bus and limo companies. And, so far, Shepherd’s system is being used, among other places, at the University of Michigan Transit Fleet and the bus system at the Indiana University-Purdue University joint campus in Indianapolis.

Targeting college campus fleets first—largely because of their tech-savvy, smart-phone-wielding riders—Shepherd just received a second microloan from Ann Arbor SPARK and is getting ready to embark on a national sales push in the middle of January.

It’s happened relatively fast for CEO Fortino, who took the helm of the company just a year ago. Fortino studied mechanical engineering at U-M, graduating in 2000 and then went off to become an automotive engineer at Ricardo, a global engineering company with offices in Van Buren Township, MI. During his eight years at Ricardo, he was very much an old-school, nuts-and-bolts engineering guy. But he learned a few important lessons about management that he would use in the future. He was a young guy who was given a great deal of responsibility, taking on the initial hybrid … Next Page »

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