Smart School Buses Launched In The UAE To Improve Students’ Safety

Humaid Mohammed Al Qatami, Minister of Education, and Chairman of Emirates Transport (ET), inaugurated the high-tech programme.
Humaid Mohammed Al Qatami, Minister of Education, and Chairman of Emirates Transport (ET), inaugurated the high-tech programme.

From videos and sound bytes to movement of buses and direct interaction with parents, Emirates Transport’s (ET) new Smart Bus programme sets new benchmarks in the school transportation system.

Touted as the first such programme in the region to be carried out on such a massive scale, the initiative was launched on Monday by Humaid Mohammad Al Qutami, Minister of Education and Chairman of Emirates Transport, on the sidelines of the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) School Transport Conference.

Following the launch of the programme, Al Qutami reiterated the importance of enhancing students’ safety and stated that it is a top priority of the government.

“This system ensures foolproof safety of our children who are the future of our country and implementation of such an advanced programme reflects on the importance the government gives to the issue of children’s safety,” said Al Qutami as he witnessed the presentation of the system.

As the first phase of the programme, a fleet of 3,200 buses transporting around 170,000 pupils from all public schools across the country have already been equipped with advanced tracking system.

“The tracking system will help improve safety on the school buses while also helping us enhance operational efficiency and better planning of routes,” said Mohammad Abdullah Al Jarman, General Manager of ET.

The smart tracking system, built in-house by a group of ET’s engineers, helps in route planning, alerts drivers and operators if the vehicle veers from the route and contacts parents a few minutes before the scheduled pick up or drop of their children.

In the second phase, the entire fleet will be equipped with CCTV cameras and live communications system.

“We have currently installed cameras on 15 buses as a pilot. From the beginning of the next academic year, in September 2013, around 50 per cent of the 3,200 buses will be equipped with cameras, while the rest will be done by next year,” said Amir Al Shehi, Project Manager for the Smart Bus programme.

Al Shehi said that each bus will have 12 cameras, four of which will be installed outside the bus and eight inside.

“The cameras will provide views of every angle both inside and outside,while also providing live sound bytes. It will also enable live interaction with the driver,” said Al Shehi.

The GPS devices on each bus are directly connected to a satellite, which feeds live information to various control rooms across the country, operated by 162 trained officials.

The status of each bus — whether moving, idle, on time or late — would be indicated on screens through various colours.

In the next phase the authorities are also planning to provide parents access to the GPS data through a website, which will give them real time information on bus movement.

In the final phase, every student will be issued a radio frequency identification (RFID) card, which helps keep track of movement of students in and out of the bus.

Interestingly, ET is offering the Smart Bus package to private schools as well.

“We are ready to offer our services to private schools so that they can benefit from the high quality product, we are already in contract with 17 private schools and if they want the buses equipped with such facilities we have the capacity,” said Faid Mohammad Khalil, Private Schools Transport Manager at ET.

Many private schools and school bus operators in Dubai already have tracking systems in place, while some also have buses equipped with cameras.

RTA, through its series of measures, has enhanced school bus safety, however, tracking system and cameras on buses are still not mandatory, though the authority is mulling make tracking system mandatory. [GN]