The Need for Rugged Transit-Grade Computers in Harsh Transit Environments

Eta Device


All-in-one tablets are unreliable and unsuitable for public transit applications. Instead, transit agencies must consider investing in transit-grade computers to record and display mission-critical information.

Functioning onboard digital devices are essential to:

  • improve operating efficiencies.
  • automate NTD data collection.
  • and enhance the rider experience.

Though consumer-grade tablets and all-in-one Mobile Data Terminals (MDTs) with built-in touchscreen displays have become popular choices for transit agencies, these devices are not durable enough for harsh transit environments. In fact, 8 out of 10 transit agencies interviewed in 2023 have cited unreliable hardware as their primary challenge. Malfunctioning hardware is unacceptable for modern transit systems.

In this blog, we will explore the reasons why tablets do not work for transit applications and discuss the advantages of using transit-grade computers with separate touchscreen MDTs.

Consumer-grade tablets and all-in-one computers are designed for everyday use, but they fall short in the demanding conditions of transit environments.

There are a few key reasons for this:

Unreliable: Consumer-grade devices are not built to withstand the continuous vibrations, extreme temperatures, and harsh conditions common in public transportation systems. Over time, these factors lead to system failures and downtime. Consequently, agencies grow extremely frustrated with missed onboard announcements, loss of APC data, inaccurate NTD reporting data, and irritated riders due to incorrect bus arrival predictions.

Unprotected: Transit agencies need to ensure the security of their systems and data. All-in-one solutions that combine processing and the touchscreen display are installed in exposed locations since the bus operator needs to interact with the system. This placement is more susceptible to theft and tampering, causing decreased system reliability and increased service disruptions.

Upkeep: When these all-in-one devices fail during revenue service, it is inconvenient, time-consuming, and costly for transit agencies to manage. In this era of staffing shortages, transit agencies cannot afford to spend their time troubleshooting malfunctioning equipment as essential as MDTs.

The Benefits of transit-grade computers with separate touch screen devices

To address these challenges, transit agencies should consider using transit-grade computers with separate MDTs that do not have any processing responsibilities or complex operating systems. This design offers several advantages:

Durability: Transit-grade computers are specifically designed to withstand the harsh conditions of transit environments. They are built with dependable connectors and housed in protective enclosures, ensuring reliability and longevity. Simple, functionally limited MDTs provide the bus operator with an intuitive driver interface and touch screen to interact with the system but do not impact bus operation or data collection.

Security: By separating the touch screen display from the computer, a “dumb” terminal eliminates the risk of system failure or theft affecting the entire system. If the touch screen is damaged or stolen, the system can continue to operate without disruption.

Simplified Maintenance: With a “dumb” terminal, updates and maintenance are managed centrally, reducing the burden on transit agencies and ensuring consistent performance across all devices.

Cost-effectiveness: While the initial investment in transit-grade computers and touch screen MDTs may be higher than consumer-grade devices, the long-term benefits of reduced maintenance, increased reliability, and improved security make them a more cost-effective solution.


As transit agencies continue to embrace technology to enhance their operations, it is crucial to select devices that can withstand the harsh environments they will encounter. Consumer-grade tablets and all-in-one computers may seem like an appealing choice, but they are ultimately unsuitable for the demands of public transportation systems. Eventually, the bargain all-in-one solution will cost the transit agency unexpected time and money.

By investing in transit-grade computers and touch screen MDTs, transit agencies can ensure the reliability, security, and longevity of their systems, ultimately providing a better experience for both operators and passengers.

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