What will the future school bus look like?
I was pondering this while doing blind spot training with a driver and came up with the idea of removing the mirrors and replacing them with cameras and LCD screens, which would do even more to reduce blind spots. Thinking I had the million-dollar idea to retire with, I showed a few people some examples of how it would work and asked their opinion.
When I started my research, once again I found out I am a "day late, dollar short" kind of guy. There is an organization in Florida, Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, that is researching adding cameras to transit buses. In its research, the organization found that camera-based systems have the potential to significantly reduce or eliminate mirror blind zones, which could reduce transit bus side collisions.
In addition, there are several car companies looking at removing mirrors, with Tesla being in the lead, by petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to let them remove the side mirrors and replace them with cameras.
I took this a step further and looked at how you could potentially see the entire danger zone of a school bus. Imagine a complete 360-degree view of the bus without adding blind spots (we all know school buses are designed with blind spots). My vision has cameras in the bumper to eliminate the bulky cat-eye mirrors, giving the driver a forward view, instead of looking at a curved reverse view mirror that is subject to vibration while the bus is at idle. Take off the side mirrors and replace them with cameras and mount the LCD screens to the window posts that already exist, which would keep the drivers from moving their heads. They would be looking virtually in the same location. No more breaking mirrors on other buses in the lot or garage doors.
Cameras are too expensive, you might think. Not necessarily. With technological advances, cameras and LCD monitors have dropped in price dramatically. Take a quick search on Amazon and you will see what I mean. The heated, remote control mirror that you are currently using on your buses could cost more than the camera and monitor put together. Now, add night vision and wide-angle cameras, and school buses could literally be the safest vehicle on the road (not that they already aren’t).
I am not saying there wouldn’t be issues; we all know that anytime you add electronics to a school bus, it adds potential problems.
Well, enough of my rambling about how my dreams of early retirement were crushed by someone else thinking of it first.
Donald West is transportation director at Harlem (Ill.) School District 122.