Safer School Buses, on the Roads and in the Air
Thirty years ago, a tragic bus accident claimed the lives of twenty-one students in Alton, Texas. A Dr. Pepper truck collided with the bus, pushing it off the road and into a water-filled caliche pit forty feet below.
The accident was due to the truck driver’s negligence and inexperience. The school bus driver had a good driving record and was operating one of the safest vehicles on the road: a school bus.
Riding a school bus is far safer than traveling in mom’s SUV to school. Almost twenty-four million children ride the bus to school every day. The bus seats are compartmentalized to absorb force in the event of an impact, and they provide limited movement so that children cannot be tossed bout the bus’s interior. This design makes seat belts unnecessary.
Could school buses be made safer? Experts think so, and one of the options includes self-driving buses.
The self-driving school bus
Self-driving school buses are not futuristic ideas. They are almost here.
Cache Valley, Utah, has installed extra safety equipment on one of its buses. The new enhancements are so effective at improving safety that the district wants to equip its entire transportation fleet with autonomous features like these:
- 360° exterior camera views
- Mobile Eye technology that warns the driver when tailgating, drifting, or failing to signal
- Motion sensor alerts when students pass near the bus.
As impressive as these features are, self-driving buses are truly autonomous. They are also in use in districts like Florida’s Babcock Ranch. SEDRIC, the self-driving bus, is a descendant of the SElf DRiving Car. Traveling at eight miles per hour, it won’t be breaking any land speed records, not even when the bus accelerates to its max speed of thirty miles per hour. However, the bus is safe, clean to operate (it’s electric), and convenient. Parents request service when their children are ready for school.
You may even see flying school buses in the future. Mrs. Frizzle’s Magic School Bus could become a reality.
Transportation disruptor Uber is hoping to launch flying taxis in Dallas and Los Angeles as soon as 2023. Called uberAir, the service will offer airborne ride-sharing. They are designing drone-like vehicles that use vertical lift to collect passengers and transport them to other locations. Flying school buses may even reduce rush hour traffic.
UberAir plans for its aircraft to be completely autonomous, but the first generation airbuses will have pilots on board to monitor the system and flight. Flying school buses could be a mere decade away. Thanks to advances in technology like GPS, motion sensors, and onboard Wifi, autonomous self-driving school buses may be here even sooner.
Hopefully, these vehicles will be every bit as safe as the traditional yellow dog on the road today. There shouldn’t be another tragic school bus in America.