Following in the Footsteps of AutoTURN, Two New Products Are Born
In the early years of Transoft, when the company consisted of Milton and his partner, AutoTURN wasn’t the only product they worked on. In 1994, Milton had the idea to take the vehicle turning capabilities of AutoTURN and expand into the aviation industry: they decided to call it AutoTURN Aircraft.
About a year earlier, he realized there were unmet needs in the way road and highway signs were being designed leading to the creation of GuidSIGN. Both products were intended to increase Transoft’s breadth within the transportation industry.
“AutoTURN Aircraft was the second AutoTURN based product that Transoft developed,” said Michael Frost, Transoft’s senior product manager. “It was derived from AutoTURN in that we created the ability to simulate aircraft movements and some of the basic requirements for movement checking. At the time, we didn’t have the compliment of ground service vehicles. The libraries were in large part the AutoTURN libraries which featured the AutoTURN roadway vehicles such as the AASHTO and TAC libraries, which of course wouldn’t normally operate on the airfield, but were good for groundside planning work.”
While AutoTURN Aircraft was basic, it gave Transoft a platform to receive feedback from the industry.
“AutoTURN Aircraft only did aircraft moving around out on the airfield,” said Frost. “There was no ability to place stationary aircraft. There were no pushback capabilities. There was no ability to put a tractor and an aircraft together and allow those combinations of vehicles to push away from the stand.” From aviation industry clients, Transoft learned what the real concerns were on the airfield and slowly added to the software.
Unlike the large inventory of aircraft and ground support vehicles in AeroTURN today, there were no bridges, there were very few ground support vehicles in AutoTURN Aircraft, just aircraft from the main commercial manufacturers. “We had Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier, and MacDonnell Douglas,” says Frost. “There would have been 12-15 libraries and there would have been fewer than 200 aircraft.”
The main driver to move from AutoTURN Aircraft to AeroTURN was industry competition.
“We realized there was an opportunity to extend our business to better support aviation planning companies, airlines or airports themselves,” says Frost. “We created a solution that met more of our clients’ needs. It was easy for us to do that at that point. We understood turning and we understood turning capabilities. We focused on getting better at learning what the aviation industry wanted and built a good product from the ground up.”
Since the early 1990s, traffic information signs across North America have looked clearer as GuidSIGN came on the market. From freeway signs to driving enthusiasts making videos, GuidSIGN has made things easier for a lot of people.
“Originally, GuidSIGN wasn’t a very graphical application when it was first put together, but it has evolved through the years,” says Frost. “We’ve now simplified and upgraded the capabilities involved in the process of producing signs.”
Over the years, we’ve given the user the ability to lay out the sign while maintaining the best practice of spacing to maintain legibility. It’s important to have consistent spacing and leave enough contrast so the sign is optimally visible under any conditions.
“The original version of GuidSIGN was ‘design only’, meaning when it came to fabrication, the user would print a sheet or report and they would take that to their sign shop and ask them to create the sign,” says Frost. “The sign shop would input that into their software and they would print it and cut it.”
An important innovation in GuidSIGN was the introduction of the Export to Cutter capability, which allowed Transoft to produce a Drawing Exchange Format (DXF) cutting file for the sign. “DXF is the lowest level common vector translation format between different software platforms,” says Frost. “It allows users to take a DXF into an Adobe Illustrator file, or Corel Draw or a Microstation platform. It helps eliminate one step.”
Moving to Clearview fonts was another major upgrade for GuidSIGN. One of Transoft’s supply partners, Meeker and Associates, along with Terminal Design completed funded studies on positive contrast legends (a white legend on a dark background). They studied the standard Gothic alphabet that’s been in the MUTCD for years and compared it to their newly developed Clearview type font.
“The Clearview font had the inherent improvements of increasing the lowercase to uppercase character height ratios, so that the looped characters became taller,” says Frost. “They also dropped the stroke width which allowed for more contrast between the dark portion background of the sign and the light portion of the stroke itself.”
The authors of the study found that the Clearview font is more legible in poor weather conditions or with motorists that have any kind of visual impairment. When the FHWA and the MUTCD approved the Clearview font for interim usage, Transoft updated GuidSIGN to support the font which wasn’t available previously. For drivers traveling at 45 mph, that legibility enhancement could easily translate into 80 extra feet of reading distance, or a substantial 1.2 seconds of additional reading time.
Transoft Solutions maintains a strong relationship with Meeker and Associates to this day, which puts us in a unique position in the transportation industry.
“We have a great relationship with the font developer and we are the only private company that can sell that font,” says Frost.
In the next installment of Our Story, we talk to Glenn Blundell one of the early adopters of AutoTURN, VicRoads in Australia. Read it in the link below: