Local schools planning to implement new AI technology to keep kids safe on school buses

Red, blinking lights on a school bus is the direct signal for motorists to stop. Unfortunately, though, every school bus driver knows the fear of dropping kids at their stops only to see vehicles speed by the bus's stop sign and safety arm. Now, several local schools will be using new technology to reduce the number of times motorists illegally pass school buses and put children at risk.  

"A lot of people just would rather beat the stop sign than stop for these kids," said Wiley Lopez, a bus driver in Delaware County. "I hate it. That could be my child or your child."

Drivers can violate bus laws again and again if there's no cop around to slap them with a ticket, which is why Chichester schools, along with Southeast Delaware County, and the Norristown area districts are turning to BusPatrol. 

BusPatrol is a Virginia-based company that installs cameras on school buses, which are able to read the license plates of bus-runners, so they can be mailed a $300 ticket through artificial intelligence technology, known as "Ava." 

"She’s able to monitor up to 8 lanes of traffic in a variety of weather and lighting conditions. We build evidence packages that ultimately get put in front of law enforcement," said BusPatrol's CEO, Jean Souliere. 

The "packages" include video of the violator, so police are able to determine if the law has actually been broken. If police determine that the driver did break the law, BusPatrol will send out the $300 ticket to the registered owner of the violating vehicle. 

Jim Stewart, the Transportation Director at Chichester Public Schools, says he fully supports anything that will keep students safer. 

"Anything that's going to make the children safer getting on and off the bus is a great thing," he said. "Unfortunately, there's been too many sad occurrences that have happened throughout the nation."

BusPatrol, which says it is working with 20 school districts across Pennsylvania, including five in the Philadelphia region, covers the cost of outfitting the buses and makes its money by taking a cut of the fines issued toward violators. 

"This costs the districts absolutely nothing. 100 percent of the cost to fund these programs is put squarely on the backs of those who break the law," said Souliere. 

The programs will launch following a public awareness campaign that will educate motorists on bus safety laws and teach children safety tips for getting on and off the bus. School officials in Chichester say they plan to begin using BusPatrol technologies in early 2023.