Advancements in School Bus Technology

School buses can stir up feelings of quaint nostalgia—after all, they’ve been on our roads with that distinctive yellow since the ’40s. But buses have changed, even if you can’t see it. They’ve become more efficient, more comfortable, and above all, safer. These new advancements in school bus technology mean that kids are getting the best ride possible.

Safety Lighting

New LED technology gives buses a higher profile on the roads, with illuminated bus signs that are visible from farther away, in all conditions, from any angle, and at any time of day. Fully illuminated stop arms are impossible to miss. Visibility has never been this bright, giving motorists more time to recognize buses and react safely, resulting in fewer accidents.

Faster Wi-Fi

Adding connectivity to school buses is the key to improvements. Wi-Fi makes it possible to stream videos and information from other applications, so schools and parents can know what’s happening in real-time. New 5G networks are likely to be common by 2021 and 2022, and they’ll be able to process data 100 times faster than 4G technology.

Students benefit most from these upgrades. Many schools are assigning schoolwork through tablets and laptops, so any time they can connect on the bus is more time for homework. Over the course of a year, students could gain up to 20 additional days of instructional time with Wi-Fi on buses. Not all students have Wi-Fi at home, so the extra time can make a big impact. Some communities have even used the buses as Wi-Fi hotspots, parking them at football games so that parents can fill out college forms online for financial aid.

If the school filters internet access to education-only websites, this technology can also affect student behavior on buses. The chance to do homework can keep kids busy, cutting down on idle time that can lead to disruptions and bullying. On long trips, especially, Wi-Fi keeps young passengers occupied and out of trouble.

Better GPS Tracking

With more precise and timely GPS tracking, it’s possible to know exactly where buses are at all times. Schools can geofence routes with predefined areas so that an alarm will sound when a bus enters an unapproved territory. Updates about traffic congestion and dangerous zones can re-route buses to help them stay on schedule and avoid hazards.

With GPS, parents can rely on apps such as “Here Comes the Bus,” which will give them real-time notifications when the bus picks up and drops off their children, and alerts on whether the bus is late or on time. They can get specialized alarms telling them when their kids are 10 minutes away. The information is encoded and available to authorized users only.

Drivers are easier to spot-check, with information on whether they are following railroad crossing procedures, unexpectedly idling, missing stops, and more. These new GPS telematics units can tell school districts which drivers are speeding, where, by how much, and for how long. While kids are on board, all the adults concerned will have infinitely more peace of mind.

More Video Monitoring

Cameras on buses are already recording the behavior of drivers and students to help inform procedures and avoid future issues. Now audio is becoming available to give a better picture of the circumstances in real-time. It’s a way to keep an eye on drivers’ attention to the road and record any instances of passenger misbehavior or bullying. Video evidence helps to determine repercussions afterward and better ways to handle disciplinary issues. Just the presence of monitoring equipment gives everyone on the bus more motivation to conduct themselves safely.

Many school districts are praising the newer stop-arm cameras, which operate similarly to red light cameras. When a driver stops the bus and extends the stop sign, a camera will photograph any vehicles that illegally drive around the bus, reporting their license plates to local authorities. In some states, those drivers will receive tickets and fines. It’s added assurance that kids will be safer getting on and off the bus.

And outside the bus, where most accidents happen, new technology has given us 360-degree cameras that can give a seamless picture of the entire exterior. Four cameras can combine footage into one stream that drivers can watch from their seats. Students are most vulnerable while loading and unloading, and these cameras, like rear-view cameras in cars, will eliminate the need for guesswork.

Pedestrian Radars

These high-frequency radars are supplemental to exterior bus cameras and can detect any pedestrians around the bus. LED ground lights, cross-view mirrors, and a 77 GHz frequency band will indicate when people or objects are within 10 feet of the bus. The system alerts drivers through an onboard tablet and caution lights on the mirrors. The combination of video, sensors, and even artificial intelligence can signal lane departure and potential collision risks on the roads.

Recent emergencies have involved students staying behind on buses at the end of the route, whether small children are hiding or passengers are falling asleep and missing their stops. Motion detectors can now monitor when there’s a heartbeat or breathing after the bus has been parked and alerts the driver so that no child will be left behind on the bus.

Student Identification

Badges with each student’s information can indicate the exact time, date, and location that they get on and off the bus with a scan. ID cards are another way to accomplish the same thing. Technology has now given us radio frequency identification devices to track students, too. The tags can attach to the badges or cards and will send notifications to parents and authorities via phone.

Mechanical Diagnostics

Maintaining buses becomes more foolproof with technology that collects data from all parts of the engine. It will report any necessary repairs for damaged indicator lights, fuel injectors, oil tanks, transmission, gas tanks, exhaust systems, and issues related to the revolution per minute (RPM) levels. When weather is affecting driving conditions, a spout on the front of school bus tires can drop sand onto icy roads.

GPS technology is a tool that can track a bus’s fuel consumption, creating opportunities to change routes and vehicles to save money. The biggest buzz is for electronic stability control, which is getting high praise for detecting when a school bus is unstable and correcting the problem before it loses control or even rolls over. Canada already has requirements that all new buses have electronic stability control.

All these advancements in school bus technology depend on a combination of training for drivers and students, well-integrated systems, and public awareness. These smarter school buses are safer, improving efficiency and maintenance to lower the total cost of ownership.

On a typical day, buses deliver 25 million American children to their schools and back home. National Bus Sales can help you make sure they’re safe along the way. With vehicles manufactured by Blue Bird, International, Thomas, Titan, and Trans Tech, we deliver quality at an affordable price, with an emphasis on comfort and—most important—safety. Contact our parts department for any technology upgrades you need.

School Bus Technology

Ben Henshaw

Ben Henshaw

Ben Henshaw Sales Manager National Bus Sales

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