VR School Bus Gives Students a Chance to Visit Mars

VR School Bus Gives Students a Chance to Visit Mars

In addition to their applications in gaming, virtual reality platforms have gained a lot of interest from the educational community in recent years. Imagine teaching engineering students how to work on complex equipment in a virtual laboratory, for example.  Or teaching history students about the Civil Rights Movement by allowing them to sit in on the court cases where landmark decisions were made. The only trouble with virtual reality experiences is that they’re usually limited to one person wearing a headset. That’s why Generation Beyond, an educational subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, has turned a school bus into a huge, mobile virtual reality platform that allows a whole classroom of students to take a shared tour of Mars. They call the bus the Mars Experience

Each of the windows in the bus was replaced with a transparent 4K display and a layer of glass film which becomes opaque when an electric current is applied to it. This lets the vehicle transform from an ordinary school bus to a roving VR platform at the flip of a switch. Once the VR is enabled, the simulation begins tracking the movement of the bus to create a dynamic virtual experience. Each time the bus turns, hits a bump in the road or changes speed the simulation of Mars reacts accordingly. The system’s designers mapped their simulation onto the streets of Washington, D.C. so the bus can move freely around the city while maintaining the virtual environment in a 250 square mile area.

The simulation was designed by Framestore, the same VFX studio that created many of the landscapes in the sci-fi thriller The Martian. In addition to the VR-enabled window panels, the team also outfitted the bus with a surround sound system to add an extra layer of immersion to the experience.

To learn more about what went into the creation of the Mars Experience, check out this video from the design team!

 

There’s a New Bus in Town on the Streets of D.C.

There’s a New Bus in Town on the Streets of D.C.

While transit officials in the Washington, D.C. have been working overtime to repair the city’s aging subway system, a new kind of bus with some serious personality is making its debut in the nation’s capital. It’s called Olli, and it’s got the brain of IBM’s Watson computing system.

Olli might be smaller than other buses in the city, but it’s a whole lot smarter. So smart, in fact, that it doesn’t need a human driver. Passengers can hail the little bus from an app similar to Uber or Lyft. Once Olli picks them up, they simply ask the bus to take them to their destination, and off they go. Using an array of 30 sensors and its Watson-powered brain, Olli is able to continually collect and analyze transportation data, allowing it to make quick decisions and get better at navigating busy city streets.

Olli was created by American automotive startup Local Motors – a company that focuses on innovative open-source vehicle designs. Rather than build Olli with conventional manufacturing processes, Local Motors chose to 3D print most of its components instead. This allows replacement parts to be printed at local shops, rather than shipped in from elsewhere. The company has built “micro factories” to accomplish this goal in Germany, Arizona, Tennessee and Maryland.

According to EcoWatch, Local Motors is currently working with cities in at least 50 other countries who are also interested in Olli’s unique approach to bus transit. You can learn more about this smart little bus in the video from Local Motors below!

 

Detroit Reveals Plans to Revitalize its Ailing Transit System

Detroit Reveals Plans to Revitalize its Ailing Transit System

In the first half of the 20th century, Detroit was one of the foremost hubs of industry and engineering in the United States. For decades, the Motor City manufactured millions of automobiles for drivers all over the world. Then, the energy crisis of the 1970s forced American automakers to scale back their operations, and the city fell on hard times.  Since then, Detroit has struggled to curb an economic collapse that left the city in bankruptcy in 2013.

City planners in Detroit have long identified a slow, fragmented public transit system as one of the chief obstacles to the city’s economic renewal. In 2012, the Michigan State Legislature approved the creation of a Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to bridge the gap between Detroit’s two independent transit services – the Detroit Department of Transportation (DDOT) and the Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART). Now, four years later, the RTA has unveiled its plan to overhaul Detroit’s transit system to make it faster, more accessible and commuter-friendly.

The RTA’s plan focuses primarily on revamping Detroit’s bus service. New cross-county routes will be implemented to connect separate SMART and DDOT routes, eliminating the need for riders to transfer between lines and wait for multiple buses. In addition, commuter express routes will run during rush hour between the city’s most populous areas and the places with the most employers. Finally, the RTA plans to construct dedicated lanes for a bus rapid transit service to quickly move people around the city and surrounding suburbs.

The RTA is expected to ask voters to approve a $1.2 million tax levy to fund the project later this year. Many of Detroit’s residents hope that fixing the broken transit system will be a significant step forward in the city’s recovery.

360° Cameras are Coming to School and Transit Buses

360° Cameras are Coming to School and Transit Buses

Long, tall buses might be ideal for carrying large groups of people, but they’re not known for having great visibility. Broad body panels can make it difficult for drivers to spot people and objects around the sides and rear ends of buses in particular. Large mirrors can help, but they often don’t completely eliminate blind spots.

Thanks to mobile video surveillance and fleet management company Seon, however, blind spots in buses could soon be a thing of the past. Recently, Seon released the inView 360 Around Vehicle Monitoring (AVM) System which uses a series of four cameras to provide drivers with a complete, live view of the space around their buses. An electronic control unit stitches and blends the images from the four cameras to create a 360° panoramic view of a bus’s surroundings.

Fleet managers can also review data recorded from the AVM system to determine the cause of accidents. The playback software synchronizes with audio and vehicle telemetry data such as speed, GPS location and brake signals. This can give fleet managers the ability to dispute fraudulent insurance claims and ensure that drivers obey the rules of the road.

“The desire to improve driver visibility is the core value behind the development of the inView 260 AVM system,” said product manager Kevin Brady in an interview. If we can give drivers a better view of their surroundings, they can avoid costly accidents and prevent vehicle damage, saving the lives of pedestrians and reducing fleet liability and insurance costs.”

Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for new and used buses – Las Vegas Bus Sales.

Connecticut is Pioneering Bus Rapid Transit in America

Connecticut is Pioneering Bus Rapid Transit in America

Municipal bus systems in America aren’t known for being especially fast. They’re inexpensive and reliable, but if you need a fast mode of transport they’re typically not your best option. In any case, rapid is not an adjective most Americans would be likely to apply to their city’s buses.
 
In other parts of the world however, bus transit is actually quite speedy. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems were first developed in Brazil, and have since been adopted in many other countries in South America, Europe and Asia.
 

So what differentiates a BRT line from the bus transit systems we’re familiar with?

 
There are three defining features of a BRT system. Passengers pay before they board, there are dedicated lanes and traffic signal priorities for buses, and bus stop platforms are level with bus doors. In essence, a BRT line acts as an above-ground metro rail system. BRT lines also have a few distinct advantages over subway systems. Most notably, they are far less expensive to build and maintain. It’s also easier for city planners to adapt BRT lines to changes in the future. In spite of these virtues, BRT lines have remained conspicuously absent from America’s roads until recently.
 
When it opened in the spring of last year, Connecticut’s BRT system became the longest of its kind in the country. It’s called CTfastrak, and it stretches nearly 10 miles between Hartford and New Britain. CTfastrak has only been operating for a little over a year, but it’s already been very successful. The bus lanes were built over an abandoned Amtrak commuter line which made the project especially cost effective. State transit officials have plans to extend the system with other lines in the future.
 
Some cities such as Boston and Chicago have tried to develop BRT systems in the past, but they’ve struggled to implement them effectively. Many analysts in the transit industry are arguing that CTfastrak is currently the best, most effective BRT system in the country.
 
Hopefully before too long we’ll see more of these fast, efficient and affordable transit systems in other American cities as well.
 

Port Authority Offers $1 Million for New Bus Terminal Design

Port Authority Offers $1 Million for New Bus Terminal Design

The 66-year-old Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan is showing its age. Engineers in the city estimate that, due to structural concerns, the building will need to be torn down in about 20 years. Last year, Port Authority commissioners from New York and New Jersey met to decide on a design for a new terminal, but were unable to reach a consensus.
 
Now they’re inviting anyone with an interest in architecture, engineering or transportation to come up with a viable plan for a new bus terminal. The winner of the competition will win a cool $1 million.
 
While many people in the city are applauding this democratic initiative, others are concerned that it’s a case of putting the cart before the horse. The reason Port Authority was unable to agree on a design last year was because they hadn’t really decided what they wanted, or where they wanted to build it. Whereas commissioners from New York were partial to a new, larger terminal in midtown, commissioners from New Jersey argued for two smaller terminals – one in New York, and one in New Jersey. Port Authority is currently conducting a trans-Hudson commuter study to determine what course of action will best serve the area.
 
In the meantime, Port Authority is asking the designers participating in their competition to come up with plans that are “modular” and “scalable.” This way, they hope to be able to adapt the plans to whatever location they choose once they finally do reach a consensus.
 
The agency is conducting the transit study and design competition at the same time in an effort to expedite the rebuild process, but many people feel that conducting the study before the competition would result in better, more useful designs. Participants in the competition won’t be expected to submit final designs until the study is completed in June. It’s an optimistic timeframe, but designers now have 1 million reasons to get to work.
 

Green Benefits of Bus Transportation

Check out our new infographic on the green benefits of bus transportation.
Green Benefits Infographic

Officials in Mexico City Use Crowdsourcing to Map Bus Routes

Officials in Mexico City Use Crowdsourcing to Map Bus Routes

Commuting by bus in Mexico City is not for the faint of heart. There are more than 1,000 bus routes that wind their way through the city’s meandering streets, many of which are more or less unofficial and established by popular demand. While a public transit agency does manage a select few rapid-bus lines in the city, the vast majority of the buses – upwards of 25,000 of them – are operated by private concessionaires. Routes change frequently as private bus owners seek out new passengers and take detours to avoid traffic. Unless you’re a long-time resident of Mexico City, getting around by bus can be near impossible. After struggling for years to make a comprehensive map of the city’s bus routes, city officials have finally found a solution. Crowdsourcing.
 
Over the course of the past month, the Mexico City’s Mobility Department has been releasing a mobile app called Mapatón CDMX to bus riders that will use geolocation to gather data about the routes they take. As an incentive to use the app, participating riders will have chances to win prizes during the data collection. In addition to tracking the trajectory of bus routes, the app will also collect data about ticket prices and stop locations. The same technology was has been used in the past to map the bus system in Dhaka, Bangladesh. It was originally developed by a team at MIT.
 
The app will gather data for just over two weeks between January 29 and February 14. The results will be made available in an open database in late February. Thanks to the power of crowdsourcing, Mexico City will have its bus map in a matter of weeks rather than years.
 

In San Francisco, Riders Can Now Pay Bus Fare With PayPal

In San Francisco, Riders Can Now Pay Bus Fare With PayPal

Over the course of the past couple of years, a number of industry disruptors such as Uber and Lyft have forced public transit services to rethink their business strategies to keep ridership levels afloat. San Francisco, a city with a long history of innovation in public transit, is the latest municipality to update their business model for the 21st century.
 
Back in January, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) announced that they would be partnering with mobile ticketing and payment platform GlobeSherpa to create a dedicated mobile app for ticket transactions. After months of planning and anticipation, the app was finally made available to customers in November.
 
It’s called MuniMobile, and it’s designed to be especially convenient for tourists and casual riders. Once downloaded on Android or iOS, riders can save bank card information or link the app with their PayPal account. They can also purchase tickets for later and then redeem them from their smartphones.
 
“This mobile fare payment pilot program is part of our efforts to improve the customer’s experience on the Muni system. With this new app, riders will be able to buy tickets on their phones anywhere and anytime,” said SFMTA Director of Transportation Ed Reiskin in a press release.
 
The SFMTA’s pilot program might be the first of its kind, but it certainly won’t be the last. Other cities with well-established public transportation infrastructures and prosperous tourist industries will likely follow suit in the near future. It’s a step in the right direction to help cities and their citizens make the most of public transit services.
 

Autonomous Shuttle Buses Slated to Hit Swiss Streets in 2016

Autonomous Shuttle Buses Slated to Hit Swiss Streets in 2016

Driverless vehicles are no longer a far-off dream of the future. In just a few months, autonomous buses will debut on the streets of Sion, Valais in Switzerland. The project is being spearheaded by the Swiss startup BestMile, who developed a dispatching system that allows them to monitor and control fleets of autonomous vehicles in real time from afar.
 
Rather than devoting their energy and resources to developing privately owned autonomous vehicles, BestMile is committed to focusing on public transportation instead. The company is working in conjunction with a French manufacturer, Navya, to deploy autonomous buses in Switzerland by spring of next year.
 
A testing phase began in December that introduced a small group of the buses will travel in controlled areas around Sion without passengers. If the initial testing goes as planned, passengers will be able to travel through many of the city’s tourism hubs on the buses within the next couple of months.
 
Rather than using driver-assist software, the buses will be entirely autonomous – operating without a steering wheel and pedals. An official will be present on each bus at all times, however, to monitor its operations. In addition to the official, the buses will seat 9 passengers. The buses are powered by electric motors and can reach a top speed of 20 km/hr (just shy of 15 mph). They won’t be breaking land speed records anytime soon, but in the small, crowded Swiss streets there’s not much need for speed anyway.
 
Some publications are touting this as a world first, but in fact similar buses have already successfully been deployed in the Netherlands. It will likely be a few more years before we see autonomous shuttle buses in American cities, but we might see them at airports and campuses even sooner.
 
Stay tuned for more updates from your premier source for new and used buses – Las Vegas Bus Sales.