Pittsburgh Public uses AI system to reduce bus overtaking violations |  Pittsburgh City Paper

Pittsburgh Public uses AI system to reduce bus overtaking violations | Pittsburgh City Paper

BusPatrol works with school districts across the country to prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses when stop sign arms are extended.
Photo: Courtesy of BusPatrol” class=”uk-display-block uk-position-relative uk-visible-toggle”>

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Photo: Courtesy of BusPatrol

BusPatrol works with school districts across the country to prevent drivers from illegally passing school buses when stop sign arms are extended.

More than 500 drivers illegally passed stationary Pittsburgh school buses during a two-month period this summer, according to a pilot program implemented by the city’s public school system. Officials say a self-funded artificial intelligence camera system could bring that number down.

The violations were recorded by cameras installed outside 19 Pittsburgh public school buses by Virginia-based tech company BusPatrol, with which the school board approved a long-term contract during a meeting public at the end of August.

The program calls for the installation of 11 cameras on each of the 160 buses in the district, with seven outside to monitor the road and four inside to monitor passengers and bus drivers. The facilities are expected to be completed by the end of October, according to school officials.

Director of Student Transportation Megan Patton says the problem of motorists ignoring bus stop signs has been a long-standing concern for the district. When BusPatrol reached out, Patton says, school officials saw an opportunity to fix the problem.

“Drivers and crossing guards were reporting seeing these issues,” Patton said. Pittsburgh City Paper. “It’s something they’ve wanted to do for some time, and it took us a few months to get the process started and set up a trial period, which was towards the end of last school year. and during the summer.”

Ellen Diaz Taffel and Eric Keller are both parents of PPS students and have lived in Stanton Heights for more than a decade. They say Stanton Avenue is known by neighbors as a dangerous road, where, they say, despite a 25mph speed limit, it’s common for cars to go over 40mph and not stop for pedestrians.

“Some riders can definitely be jerks, but it was almost over the top and beyond at times,” Keller recalled. “I can’t tell you how many times the bus driver would just honk the horn because people were driving by. They have no other recourse. »

Diaz Taffel has seen this type of driving endanger students, as well as other drivers.

“I think we’ve also seen near misses because cars cross the double yellow line to get around a bus and then there’s another car coming,” says Diaz Taffel.

Both parents think the problem is distracted driving.

“That’s not to say it’s better to dream as you pass a school bus with the lights on, but these are people who pulled up behind the bus, got impatient, then zoomed around it.” , says Keller. “These were people who knew they had to stop but kept going around.”

During the five-year contract, the company will take an active role in managing quotes, according to Patton. The AI ​​technology used by the cameras captures video and other information such as time, date and GPS position while the bus is running.

Through a multi-step process, the video is accessed by a software system that gathers information and determines if a breach event has occurred. Then the data and images can be sent to a human reviewer. This technology allows an examiner to examine thousands of events per day.

From there, BusPatrol can share information with local law enforcement who will issue a citation. The first offense will be a warning, while repeat offenders can expect to receive a $300 fine, five points added to their driving record and a 60-day license suspension.

Inside the buses, the old internal cameras are also being replaced by BusPatrol technology. Surveillance of the footage will also be handled by the company, but the school district can access the footage at any time. According to PPS Public Relations Manager Ebony Pugh, the new cameras will provide better coverage with updated technology.

School officials say the program is free to the district because BusPatrol offers an offender-funded business model. Money issued from a $300 fine will be shared among all partners, with the state and local police department pocketing $25 each, and the remaining $250 split between BusPatrol and PPS as part of an agreement. confidential.

The district also uses its website and social media platforms to help familiarize drivers with the laws governing interaction with school buses on the road.

According to PennDOT, drivers should stop at least 10 feet from school buses when red signal lights are flashing and the stop arm extends. Drivers should also slow down when the yellow lights are flashing. Vehicles can only resume driving when the lights stop flashing and the stop arm goes down.

BusPatrol says its program also deters repeat offenders, with participating districts expected to see the rate of offenders drop by 20 to 30 percent in the first year.

For those who receive a violation, BusPatrol claims that 99.8% of them do not re-offend. Drivers who have issued citations can also dispute tickets or contact BusPatrol’s call center for assistance with violations.

PPS staff, like Patton, say the program is a free option to improve student safety with no obvious downside.

“The safety of our students is the top priority, especially after watching the pilot video,” she said. “It’s very scary how many drivers don’t obey school buses.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools. pghschools.org

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