School Bus Fleet

November 2014

A management & maintenance magazine for school transportation fleets

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18 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 example, would sensors on the bus- es be programmed so that in Colora- do the service door would close when crossing railroad tracks, and would buses in New Mexico leave the door open to provide an escape route in the event of an accident? Horton asks. Ac- cording to Google, as it continues to work on the technology, it plans for the cars to comply with the rules of the road in all states. Les Cross, president of the On- tario School Bus Association and director of business development for Stock Transportation Ltd., agrees the technology could en- hance passenger and pedestrian safety. However, he notes, cost is always a big consideration. "Even though we all think of safety as our primary business, how much can we afford, and how much time goes by before it becomes af- fordable?" he asks. "That's always a question for school boards and consumers alike." (Currently some sources compiled by StateTech, a publication that reviews technolo- gy issues faced by government in- formation technology leaders, say the cars, let alone buses, could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.) Horton echoes Cross' concern, asking about the frequency of re- placing the backup cameras and zones and know to slow down. "Machines do not always make in- tuitive decisions," Horton adds. According to a video on Google's Self-Driving Car Project page, the sen- sors can differentiate between a car, cyclist and pedestrian, and can detect how close it is to other objects. There are also the many different state regulations to be considered. For drivers, transportation directors and association presidents who were in- terviewed, Flood says the technology could help expedite route and stop changes, reduce driver distractions and enable transportation personnel on the bus to "more actively monitor students while facing them instead of occasionally looking through a small oblong mirror. This could help to re- duce the occurrences of bullying and students getting out of their seats." Conversely, he notes that while driv- ers sometimes get distracted for vari- ous reasons, "they are also very aware of their surroundings and the neigh- borhoods they drive in. Will self-driv- ing vehicles adjust to situations on routes? Will they wait for that child that fell running to catch the bus? Los- ing the human element could be a greater loss than initially thought." Horton agrees that losing the human element may take away spontaneous decision-making. He concedes sensors may spot students in the traffc lane and stop the car, but he wonders if they would stop far back enough to provide suffcient clearance or approach school Ramped-up Vehicle Tech Insurance survey: Parents wary of children traveling in self-driving cars I n a recent survey conducted by, a car insurance comparison-shop- ping website, more than three-quarters of 2,000 licensed drivers surveyed said they would be very likely to buy or at least consider buying a car with autono- mous capabilities. When the possibility of much cheaper car insurance as a result of improved safety was introduced, consideration rose to 86%. However, more than three-quarters of respondents said they wouldn't trust a driverless car to take their children to school. "Part of it is a natural reaction that you certainly want more precautions taken [with] your child than you normally take for yourself," Des Toups, managing editor of, says, adding that he is strictly an observer and has no independent knowledge of the production plans of any autonomous vehicles. Additionally, the wording of the question may have left the type of vehicle open to interpretation. The question, "Would you allow an autonomous or self-driving car to take your kid to school?" may have elicited a different response than using the word "bus," Toups says. The survey defned "self-driving car" to respondents as "a car that could operate at least part of the time without driver input." "Right now there's no clear universal defnition for an autonomous car," he says. "Basically, any time a computer does something for you — anti-lock brakes and electronic stability control —that's autonomous technology. We were trying to make sure we distinguished between those types of autonomous technologies and cars that could actually pilot themselves for some period of time." Automotive components manufacturer Denso Corp. demonstrated v2v technology at the ITS World Congress, an annual conference featuring the latest information technology developments, held in Detroit this year.

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