Rotating cams, panic button in Dubai school bus

The idea behind this technologically advanced bus system is to ensure the safety of our children from the moment they leave their homes. (Supplied)

The new ‘smart’ school bus ready to be deployed by Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will come equipped with 14 security cameras, six of which will offer a 360-degree external view, along with panic buttons that will immediately alert authorities of an  emergency situation.

Other features include a PA system, four television screens that can show educational content; WiFi, of course, comes optional with that.

Unveiling the new school bus transport service that was announced by the RTA earlier this year, the authority also announced a smart mobile application will be launched as the new buses come into service, which will be designed exclusively for parents to track their child from the moment s/he boards the bus in the morning until they are dropped back home.

Announcing the development, Mansoor Alfalasi, Acting Director of the School Transportation Department at Dubai Taxi Corporation (DTC), RTA, also added that services can be tailor-made for individual schools, which can also include alert systems for parents when their child is exiting their classroom.

He stated: “The idea behind this technologically advanced bus system is to ensure the safety of our children from the moment they leave their homes. Not just parents, but even school authorities are eager to deploy such technologically advanced vehicles.”

When quizzed, he confirmed 35 schools have already approached the RTA to use these vehicles as part of its bus fleet.

Earlier, the RTA had announced 50 vehicles are ready to be deployed in the new academic school year, with the authority announcing its strategic plan is to expand its fleet to 650 by 2024.

When asked if the financial burden of retaining the services of this new ‘smart’ school bus would fall on the shoulders of the parents, Abdulla Almeer, Acting Director of Business Development DTC said: “These smart buses will be leased out to schools at the same competitive market rates.

Parents will be paying transport fees directly to the schools itself.”

However, Almeer added the commercial contract structure left room for schools to allow services to be tailored to their requirements, with the RTA serving as a regulator.

He added: “We are not in the business to push prices up so high that we lose sight of what is paramount, which is the safety of our children.”

Smart buses

Aside from the 14 CCTV cameras, these 40-seater buses will come equipped with student ID readers, which will send an alert via SMS or email to parents when their child has boarded and exited the bus.

The smart app will also send regular alerts to parents wanting to track their child.

Almeer added: “The app will also allow parents to inform schools if their child is sick, for example, and would be unable to board the bus a particular day. Meanwhile, an automated counting system will account for when a child is missing from the bus.”

A GPS tracking system will also allow parents to track the bus via the app; however, the RTA has stated due to security and privacy reasons, access to the CCTV feed will only be made available to the Operations Control Centre of the authority.

“There will be four television screens on the bus, which can either be used to indicate the bus route or be left at the discretion of schools to show educational content, cartoons, or some other authorised content,” he said.

Also, as per UAE law, the school buses will be fitted with seatbelts in the front and back seats, with optional child seats built into the adult-sized ones to be used as needed.

The RTA further stated these buses will have 35 per cent carbon emissions compared to regular school buses, while a hydraulic suspension system will also accommodate people with special needs.

He added: “Even with all security measures in place, emergency situations can arise. It is for this very reason we have equipped the bus with two fire extinguishers, two additional emergency doors and panic buttons in place.”

The RTA also stated that aside from the 50 buses deployed in the initial stage, the authority will maintain nearly five other vehicles on standby as replacements in case a situation arises.

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