With in-person schools out for the summer, we’re not likely to encounter many school buses until August. But work is ongoing to make the roads in our state safer for the buses’ precious cargo. And this work is crucial as the disturbing facts illustrate:
- Each year, roughly 17,000 children across the nation are treated in hospital emergency rooms for injuries involving school buses and about a quarter of the injuries occur when the kids are getting on or off the bus.
- Approximately 25,000 U.S. children are injured while walking to or from school and on average, 100 of these accidents are fatal.
- In 2019, it’s estimated that 17 million drivers illegally passed school buses that had stop arms deployed.
Technology has the potential to prevent accidents and injuries involving school children and dramatically reduce these numbers. That’s why several Georgia companies have teamed up with Audi of America to develop next-generation connected vehicle applications. The home-grown partners include Blue Bird Corp., a bus manufacturer in Fort Valley; Applied Information Inc., a Suwanee-based developer of connected intelligent transportation solutions; and Atlanta’s Qualcomm Technologies, which creates connected communications systems. These companies have joined Audi in a public-private collaboration aimed at developing and demonstrating cellular vehicle-to-everything (C-V2X) technologies that can communicate safety messages to vehicles near school buses and in active school zones.
Engineers at Audi and Applied Information designed the technology and it was deployed on Blue Bird buses in the Fulton County Schools fleet and on school zone beacons near Haynes Bridge Middle School in Alpharetta. An Audi electric SUV tested its ability to communicate with the buses and beacons in normal traffic. Qualcomm Technologies provided the C-V2X system and the Infrastructure Automotive Technology Laboratory in Alpharetta was the technical coordinator.
Here’s how it works: When a Blue Bird bus extends its stop arm alerting oncoming traffic that children may be entering or exiting the bus, a signal is sent to the connected car alerting the driver to slow down through visual and audible warnings. Similarly, when the connected car enters an active school zone, roadside units mounted on speed limit signs generate warnings.
The collaborators hope to further refine the technology in a continuing effort to increase children’s safety while laying the groundwork for potential uses in a variety of public vehicles such as transit buses and emergency vehicles.
Photo provided by Audi of America.
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