New this year in Cache Valley, Utah, is a one-of-its-kind school bus equipped with additional safety features, including a camera system allowing the bus driver a 360° view of the outside of the bus whenever the driver uses a turn signal or puts the vehicle in reverse.
“We’re actually really excited about it for the safety enhancement for the driver and the students,” says Wayne Reese, Administrator for Transportation for the Cache and Logan school districts. “It has cameras located all around the bus, so when a driver is loading or unloading students, it has a camera system displaying the video in the big inside mirror, right in front of the driver, so they can see any students outside the bus.”
The bus is also equipped with Mobile Eye, which vibrates the driver’s seat to alert him or her of tailgating too closely to a vehicle, drifting into another lane without first initiating a turn signal, and when a student is within a certain proximity of the front of the bus.
While there’s only one bus like this in the entire 145-bus school district, and actually in the entire state of Utah, next year that could change. The Cache and Logan school system is planning to require their vendors to provide an entire fleet of school buses with the same equipment for the 2019-2020 school year.
Reese says, “The most important safety feature of a school bus is its driver. Even with all this technology, someone needs to use it and someone needs to be aware, and that’s the school bus driver.”
That is, at least until the autonomous school bus comes along, and it looks like that may happen sooner rather than later.
Why Holiday Gifts for the School Bus Driver May Soon Become a Thing of the Past
In March, just one year after unveiling its SEDRIC (SElf-DRIving-Car) Level 5 self-driving vehicle, Volkswagen unveiled its SEDRIC school bus at the Geneva Motor Show.
This fully-autonomous electric vehicle can transport kids without a driver. Parents could simply call up the bus when the kids are ready to go, and the bus would then travel door-to-door, picking up other kids before transporting them all to school.
It almost seems crazy to be sending kids off to school in vehicles equipped with new and still relatively unproven technology. But then, Babcock Ranch, in southwestern Florida, is actually doing it.
This fall, Babcock Ranch partnered with Transdev to become the first city to test autonomous school shuttle buses. EasyMile Easy10 Gen II is a pod-like self-driving vehicle that runs on electricity, transporting up to 12 kids at a time to and from school. It has auto braking and a safety assistant on board, and reaches a cruising speed of only 8 mph right now, but will eventually work up to 30 mph.
EasyMile Easy10 Gen II currently follows a predetermined path, picking children up from a designated pick-up area and dropping them off in front of the school. However, the goal is to eventually allow on-demand, door-to-door pickup through an app.
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Frandsen, Eric. (24 Aug 2018). New school bus enhances safety for Cache Valley students. Cache Valley Daily.
Stinson, Liz. (19 Sep 2018). Florida town is first in the world to test autonomous school shuttles. Curbed.
Gauthier, Michael. (5 Mar 2018). VW SEDRIC School Bus Concept Is An Autonomous Shuttle For Kids. Carscoops.