School Bus Fleet

November 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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16 S C H O O L B U S F L E E T • N O V E M B E R 2 0 1 4 C ould a self-driving school bus someday be the norm, leaving the drivers of today to become vehicle monitors who can de- vote more attention to keeping their riders safe and out of trouble? Google's self-driving car project, which has seen success so far on both freeways and city streets, seems to sug- gest that it's possible. Self-driving car proponents claim since most accidents are caused by human error — distract- ed or impaired driving or poor judg- ment — the technology will reduce traffc congestion due to fewer acci- dents, resulting in fewer injuries and lives lost and more freedom for those unable to drive. It will, however, be quite some time and several technological iterations before we get there, and there are still many industry concerns and logistical and liability questions to answer. More generally, connected vehicle technology (v2v) and automated ve- hicle technology are currently making great strides for passenger vehicles and trucks, for example, maintaining safe speeds, preventing lane changes that would cause collisions, and send- ing alerts of unseen pedestrians, but what about for school buses? In the meantime, school bus manu- facturers are keeping pace with offer- ings such as advanced telematics and air disc brakes. Self-driving car testing What if school bus technology ad- vanced to the point where the "driv- er" was, in fact, no longer human? Google has been testing self-driving cars on the road since 2009, according to the company's Google+ page, using its self-driving technology, comprised of software and sensors that can de- tect objects miles away and share en- vironmental data, on Lexus cars on California freeways. An introduction on the Google Self-Driving Car Project Google page says the company devel- oped prototype vehicles over the sum- mer. In addition to California, Florida; Michigan; Nevada; and Washington, D.C., are allowing these cars on the road for testing purposes, requiring a driver to be present in the vehicle who can take charge if necessary. Califor- nia is even requiring special permits for driverless cars, of which Google has won 25 of the frst 29 being issued, and Audi will be the frst vehicle man- ufacturer to receive one of the permits. Ralph Knight, administrator on spe- cial assignment, feet manager at Napa (Calif.) Valley Unifed School District's transportation department, says that the district has had a brief phone con- versation with Google about school buses: the vehicle design, computer generation and engine function. In terms of existing passenger vehi- cles, General Motors (GM) CEO Mary Barra said in September at the ITS World Congress, an annual conference featuring the latest information tech- nology developments, held in Detroit this year, that GM will introduce a 2017 Cadillac model equipped with a fea- ture called Super Cruise, a semi-auton- omous technology that drivers can use to put the car into autonomous mode while on the highway. It will maintain a safe speed and use lasers and cam- eras to ensure the driver doesn't drift from their lane or get too close to oth- er cars. Additionally, Honda tested an automated vehicle prototype at the ITS World Congress, automotive compo- With advancements such as Google's road-testing of self-driving cars, the notion is no longer relegated to episodes of "The Jetsons." However, practical use is still a long way off, though automated vehicle technology and connected vehicle technology are arriving in increments. School bus manufacturers are keeping pace, as the technology stands to help enhance pupil transportation safety even further. BY NICOLE SCHLOSSER, MANAGING EDITOR Will Ramped-up Vehicle Tech Bring Smarter, Safer School Buses?

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