#2016: Reservatron

The whole business of seat reservations on trains causes major difficulty. In particular, the mix of reserved seats and non-reserved seats always makes life hard for passengers and train staff.

Passengers find it hard to detect where they are supposed to sit and if the vehicle itself has to be changed at the last minute (as happens regularly on the trains I use) then all those little bits of cardboard slotted into seat backs have to be either reset, by hand, or disregarded.

The situation is further complicated by the fact that seats may reserved only between some intermediate stations during a long journey.

What is needed is a cheap, flexible, software-controlled way to update central information about seating so that it is visible on the train.

Today’s invention is therefore a small robot printer (red) which moves in a straight line along the outside of a train at window level. It would be held in place by suction cups alternately attaching and detaching as it scuttles along. This action would be undertaken only in stations, with the device sheltering on board whilst in transit.

Each window would have temporary images sprayed onto it by the bot using eg bright yellow, water-resistant, non-drying paint. There would be a number related to the seat position and another unique to the passenger’s ticket for that seat. It would state the stations between which the seat was reserved and I’d also like to see a small image of the passenger’s face (eg for season ticket verification) but that could be optionally obtained from one’s social network profile.

Thus a passenger could easily find their reserved seat and there could be no argument about who had made the reservation. A quick check in the preceding station would allow seat bookings to be refreshed with current data, enabling people without reservations to use seats which were not being used.

Any last minute changing of trains would allow the bot to wipe off its paint and repaint in seconds.