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Podcast Recap: Building a Smart School Bus

In 2017 BusPatrol launched an innovative safety program to improve road safety for students and modernize student transportation. In just three years, BusPatrol has become the most deployed school bus stop-arm safety program in the world and is set to be on 40,000 school buses by the end of 2020.

Our co-founder and CEO Jean Souliere was recently interviewed on The Vertical Software Podcast by host Suthen Siva. In this eye-opening episode, Jean describes his experiences as an entrepreneur, the BusPatrol mission, and the future of the student transportation industry.

If you missed the podcast you can listen to it here or read on for a detailed recap.

“Do People Actually Pass Stopped School Buses?!”

Like many people, Jean was shocked when he first discovered the number of times drivers illegally pass school buses. He told Suthen: “When I saw that, I thought ‘do people actually pass stopped school buses!?’ That was my first instinct. I thought you went straight to hell if you did that.”

He conducted a small stop-arm survey in his hometown and found that school buses were passed as many as three times per bus per day. This small-scale data revealed a large-scale problem suggesting millions of violations each year. Inspired to take action, he began exploring how technology could be used to tackle the problem and make school buses safer for students.

Testing the Stop-Arm Enforcement Technology

Stop-arm violations present a real danger to children around the world. In 2000, five-year-old Adam Ranger lost his life as he stepped off the school bus. The incident shocked drivers, parents, and communities across North America. Adam’s family in Ontario started the ‘Let’s Remember Adam’ campaign to put a stop to violations and prevent any family from ever having to endure a similar loss.

In memory of Adam, Jean brought the stop-arm enforcement technology in its early stages of development to Ontario for testing. However, the technology failed in Canada’s cold climates: “We quickly realized that even though the problem had been identified, the solution hadn’t been properly designed.”

Undeterred, he continued to work to develop an effective stop-arm enforcement solution that could withstand extreme weather conditions.

Bringing Automation to Student Transportation

Thanks to a background in technology, transportation, and logistics, we knew how technology could revolutionize the student transportation industry. Jean told Suthen: “We thought to ourselves, if we took some of that back end processing technology and evolved it and applied our know-how around AI and automation (…) we could actually connect, wire, and cloud-connect every school bus.”

This idea led to the creation of AVA, BusPatrol’s AI engine. AVA stands for automated vision analysis and uses object recognition to survey the space around the school bus. With AVA, school buses can detect any time a vehicle passes, and capture useful data relating to violations. In addition, automated license plate reader (ALPR) solutions make it easier than ever to capture violators. Not only does this make it easier to enforce the school bus stopping law, but it also empowers school districts to plan and execute safer routes for students.

A Safety-First Business Model

After developing the technology, the next question was: Why had it taken until now to bring this safety technology to the school bus? Whilst it’s now the norm for modern cars, taxis, and delivery vans to be equipped with advanced technology, school buses have remained the same for years. Jean said: “We have this scenario where, as a society, we’ve chosen to make sure that the trucks that move the t-shirts we have on our back have more technology than the buses that move the kids that represent our future. It’s a messed up but logical consequence of the choices that we make.”

BusPatrol wanted to develop a business model that flipped this problem on its head and made it possible for school districts that are strapped for cash to still offer students maximum protection on their journeys to and from school.

As a result, BusPatrol school bus stop-arm safety program is offered at zero cost to school districts, municipalities, or taxpayers. Jean continued: “I’m never going to stand in front of a mom and say your kid’s bus doesn’t have the tech because it wasn’t profitable.”

Interested in learning more about our no-cost safety solution?

Contact BusPatrol to find out more about our safety program.

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Dive into the very first season of our podcast that features parents, teachers and thought leaders who are working together to address challenges in child safety make our communities safer.

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