As with most things, the ADA requirement to make all new motorcoaches purchased after 2001 wheelchair-accessible, and the 2015 ruling to install three-point occupant restraint systems, introduced an entirely new spectrum of safety, liability and social concerns to the motorcoach industry. But a couple of responses to these requirements, particularly by one OEM and one supplier, have opened up a whole new set of opportunities for savvy motorcoach operators.
It might seem obvious that a bus driver would know how to properly turn a vehicle with a long wheelbase. Yet it is surprising how many are not taught to. More interesting, bus drivers often do not have the time to.
Given the mass of a bus or motorcoach, the carnage a moving bus or coach can inflict on a pedestrian is not surprising. Yet readers may be surprised by the carnage such a vehicle can cause when it is not moving - or just beginning to move or come to a stop.
For each route in each direction, transit stops are almost always located on one side of an intersection, not both. Stops just before the intersection are referred to as 'near-side' stops. Those just after the intersection are referred to as 'far-side' stops.
Statistically, it's safer to transport children to and from school by school bus than by car, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association. But accidents and other bus-related incidents that result in student injury and negligence are frequently causes for litigation. Leaving students on the bus when it arrives at school, sexual abuse of students by the bus driver, bus aide, or other students, and injuries caused by student misbehavior are just a few situations that might result in liability for a school district or contracted private bus company.
For many passengers, the 14-inch drop from the bottom step of a high-floor transit bus or motorcoach is challenging. In transit service, drivers do not assist or even spot boarding or alighting passengers. While motorcoach drivers typically assist or spot boarding or alighting passengers at the front door, the drivers of motorcoaches deployed in commuter/express service (provided by transit agencies or companies under contract to them) do not. Nor do scheduled service drivers do so consistently, especially at intermediate stops.
In Part 1 of this three-installment series, I characterized the development of MCI's new ramp-equipped accessible motorcoach (the MCI D45 CRT LE) as a "paradigm shift." While I will expand on why this is so in the third and last installment next month, this installment will overview the most unique features of this remarkable vehicle -- a vehicle whose ultimate potential I feel has not yet been realized.
The previous six National Bus Trader articles on this subject stabbed at some highlights and low-lights within the extraordinary spectrum of socio-economic, institutional and other issues encompassed by our transition from humanoid-driven to robotic vehicles. At this point, I thought it might be helpful to take a quick glance at some of the hardware that serves as the robots' mechanical fixtures, apart from the electronics and the digitalia: Cameras and sensors. These components were employed in "transitional" or "steppingstone" efforts along the path to truly driverless vehicles. So I feel it is worth a look at how these technologies were used and abused at this earlier stage of HAV (highly-automated vehicle) development. Should the reader wish to view the math in the robots' brains, I recommend Multiple View Geometry in Computer Vision by Richard Hartley and Andrew Zisserman. The bible for artificial intelligence. Way over my head. If also over yours, no apologies necessary.
Industry insiders, including government officials, cite an interesting analogy as a justification for their initial jump into the regulation of driverless vehicles that was first promulgated on September 20, 2016. The point made is that, had current regulations been in effect when the "Model T" hit the streets, we would have experienced far fewer collisions.
As Part 2 of this series hopefully demonstrated there is much to learn about what lies ahead in the motorcoach world from the experiences of modes deploying smaller vehicles. This installment provides a preview of the likely emergence of "highly-automated vehicles," or HAVs, in the world of large vehicles: School bus, transit and motorcoach service.