I sat in the passenger seat of a large truck, eyes fixed on the stopped car ahead as we rumbled straight toward it. Next to me, the driver of the truck gave no indication that he was going to stop the vehicle.
As we drew uncomfortably closer to the car, the driver of the truck still was not touching the brake. Then the truck abruptly slowed down. By itself.
We came to a stop within a few feet of the car. Crash avoided.
So how did the truck stop without the driver’s intervention? What was the secret to our “survival”? A collision mitigation system.
While I wasn’t actually in danger in the situation described above, it was nevertheless a dramatic display of the safety benefits of collision mitigation and avoidance technology.
The demonstration took place at the Navistar Proving Grounds, which I visited in May. The truck on which I experienced that suspenseful ride was an International ProStar, and it was equipped with a Bendix Wingman Fusion collision mitigation system. The stopped “car” was an inflatable prop.
Naturally, the experience made me think about how this technology could impact pupil transportation. During and after the Navistar Proving Grounds event, I talked with Trish Reed, vice president and general manager of Navistar’s IC Bus, to get more insight on the subject.
Reed says that the same type of collision mitigation technology that I witnessed on the truck could go into a school bus today. But the prohibitive factor is, perhaps not surprisingly, the cost.
With many school districts still facing tight budgets, and with a variety of other safety technologies competing for budget dollars, collision mitigation systems might not be at the top of most school bus buyers’ equipment lists at this point. But Reed says that these systems could become a higher priority as the technology advances and becomes more cost effective for school bus operators.
In the truck market, collision mitigation systems currently range in price from around $2,100 to $6,800, depending on the manufacturer and the technology level.
Besides Bendix, another key supplier of collision mitigation technology in the truck market is Meritor WABCO, whose OnGuard system is in use in more than 180 commercial vehicle fleets. Those fleets have reported 75% to 87% reductions in rear-end collisions and up to an 89% reduction in accident costs.
Both the Bendix Wingman system and the Meritor WABCO OnGuard system are currently available in Navistar’s trucks.
In June, the National Transportation Safety Board released a report that outlines what it calls the “life-saving benefits” of collision avoidance systems. The agency recommends that the technology become standard on all new passenger and commercial vehicles.
Even if school buses themselves aren’t equipped with collision avoidance or mitigation technology in the near future, those systems’ presence on trucks and other vehicles could positively affect school bus safety.
School buses are often rear-ended by inattentive motorists when they are stopped at railroad crossings or bus stops. If a driver is too distracted to see a big, yellow bus with flashing lights in the road ahead, a collision avoidance system on his or her vehicle could save the day.
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