The subject of autonomous vehicles is always a prickly one, but there are certainly some applications that seem to be tailor made for this technology. Let’s say a vehicle travels the same route every day at speeds generally under 30 miles an hour on suburban streets during daylight hours. Sounds like a school bus, doesn’t it? There are at least a couple of firms that are working on self-driving designs of this big yellow brick right now.
[Editor’s Note: I suppose I should note that this blog is a bit “out there.” But autonomous buses (which make sense, given that they go a prescribed route) making themselves useful during non-school time — even perhaps making the school district a bit of money — is a fun thought. -DT].
But wait! How can we put our precious spawn into something driven by a computer? Don’t those collide with pedestrians and then flip over and explode? What if the little angels do some Lord of the Flies shit and screw with the electronics so that the bus ignores the trip to school and drives itself into a lake while the kids watch from the road, laughing and drunk on stolen malt liquor? To be honest with you, I really don’t know, and I’m not interested in that part of it. Autonomous buses are coming whether we like it or not, and you can read Jason’s book to understand more about those many challenges. My issue with these huge vehicles is what happens with them for around a quarter of the year: They don’t do anything.
As a kid, it always warmed your heart during the summertime to drive by big parking lots filled with these yellow boxes, knowing they couldn’t kill your buzz for at least a few months. Seems like quite a waste to have rolling stock like that just sitting all that time, doesn’t it? This fact came to light on the tiny island that we’ve visited before: Jasonia (imagine Iceland but nobody there knows how to fish, nor does anyone scream in a recording studio). Dear Leader Torch of Jasonia decided to take the plunge into self-driving school buses. It’s not a huge place, so these units could be ideal.
During the summer months, the people of Jasonia want to enjoy outdoor dining or even just setting up their computers to do meetings with the mainland under a shady spot. This is especially important during Torchfest when people have big outdoor barbeques before the Rathurst 500 dirt track race, and then all gather alongside the track before the race in their best (Autopian) red garb to wait for Dear Leader to do his annual drive-by in a Nerf-bullet-proof Changli:
Still, those barbeques are often not enjoyable since there’s no place to sit and little relief from the summer Jasonian sun. I mean, that’s the reason I personally avoid those food truck days in our neighborhood. Torch is too cheap to pay for a bunch of picnic shelters “since they’ll only be used for three months or so out of the year’.” That’s when the neurons under his oft-criticized-hair went off. Unused school buses. Picnic shelters. Could it be?
Yes, it could. Torch worked with Bombardier in Canada to create the “Four Seasons Bus,” a bus and park shelter all in one (it must be noted that Jason wanted it to be amphibious as well, but was politely talked out of it). The autonomous buses are covered in a body design suited to a vehicle that will never move at speeds where aerodynamics will make much of a difference.
The sensors needed by the drive system in front are like eyes and visibly move side to side or up and down likek the Fisher Price School Bus We All Had.
In the size Jason ordered, the buses carry twenty precious children to David Tracy Elementary from September until the end of May. Once the kids are released from the bonds of educational prison, on June 1st the buses drive themselves to a maintenance center on the far side of the island. Here, the glass is snapped out and stored in a warehouse, the seats are flipped to be facing each other (similar to how many commuter trains do now), and tables taken from the warehouse are popped into the floor. There’s also the option for little awnings on the ends. Once retrofitted, the buses drive far and wide on the island to their assigned locations in parks, city streets, or parking lot-based festivals.
The entire interior is hose-down durable, and the seats are a strong but pliable foam which can be replaced if damaged (and is the same consistency and color all the way through in case it gets damaged or vandalized). Solar panels on the roof help charge the lights in the ceiling to illuminate the bus or shelter at night.
In the dark of night after Tatra Day (it falls on the date that Americans recognize as Labor Day) the “shelters”/mechanical “gazebos” return to the warehouse for retrofitting overnights as buses to carry disappointed little suckers back to class and lectures on how Dear Leader wrestled control of the island from the Gawkians and Gizmodahrs to gain independence.
I guess that you could make the argument that a good school bus doesn’t make the best picnic shelter, or vice versa, but if you’re eating a twenty dollar food truck hamburger in the rain you’d agree that any shelter is better than no shelter at all. As with some earlier ideas, it’s possible that Jasonia could once again lead the world in innovation.
all illustrations by The Bishop
Our Daydreaming Designer Came Up With The Ultimate Autopian Car And It Is Full Of Terrible Ideas – The Autopian
A Daydreaming Designer Is Forced To Design A Vehicle For A Nation With Enormous Money – The Autopian
Let’s Imagine What It Would Be Like If Ford Turned The F-150 Lightning Into A New EV Crown Victoria – The Autopian
Well, I don’t know that I’d want to live in Jasonia, but I’d probably visit to get a feel for the place. Like, is the Dear Leader vibe as prevalent as it reportedly is in N. Korea? Also, what’s the deal with healthcare and public wifi?
I like the idea of using the buses when they’d otherwise be idle, and I also like the way your bus looks Bishop.
There’s a political-ish ad that has aired during the news locally here in Tucson recently comparing diesel exhaust to smoking and basically how sending your kids to school on a bus is like smoking around them and at the end advocates for electric buses. I mean it’s not incorrect, but they are approaching the issue entirely wrong. I have no idea where they’d believe the money to replace an entire fleet is going to come from not to mention the infrastructure changes at the facility to charge a fleet. It’s a big investment and I’m in a district where we have to subsidize housing for teachers to come close to paying them fairly.
The whole article is great, but “it must be noted that Jason wanted it to be amphibious as well, but was politely talked out of it” is pure gold.
Origami- I did actaully have these as party boats during the summer but changed my mind- sort of sorry that I did
Has this been proven? Because, I’ve seen the Changli, and…I have doubts.
Harris- the fine print says that the sheet metal parts are bulletproof; no guarantees on the glass
I’m not sure that making autonomous buses drive the “prescribed route” is much of a problem any more. It’s not hittting any of the emergent obstacles along the way that’s the challenge.
Happy Walters- true, but it can ‘learn’ the route. For example, it would know that the giant STOP sign outside of Brycklin is just on a billboard (“STOP! Have you gotten your vaccine yet? It only LOOKS like a memory chip!”)
Oh man, that modified Rashneesh Rolls Royce picture had me laughing!
Ahh the school bus. Where I’m from, we didn’t get snow days. Granted it snowed a lot.
Must have had a pretty shoddy drivers union, because I distinctly recall the bus sliding down a hill sideways on more than one occasion on the way to middle school.
I’m glad we didn’t have snow days, I would have missed out on those experiences.
You can build snow caves and throw snowballs at your friends any day.
You get very few opportunities in life to see an amazing driver regain control of a Blue Bird full of teenagers just before he slides sideways through a red light.
And then he drops us all off in front of the school on time. And shows up the next day to do it all again.
Quite the feat for a part time employee!
ghostpedalsyndrome- yes, we get zero snow days here in Illinois, which is quite a shock since I’m from Virginia originally where a simple dusting would render the town inoperable.
What part of the Land of Lincoln are you posted up? Because in the Illinois Valley, we got basically 8 inches of snow the Entire Winter and our kids enjoyed at least two full snow days and a few half days, entirely on spec
Whether we got snow days depended on who the district administrator was. When I was in grade school we got snow days. When I was in high school we had an idiot administrator who didn’t believe in snow days, but apparently did believe in a teacher’s car getting sideswiped by a bus that was running late and fishtailed around the snowy corner in front of school. That was a fun day to be in said teacher’s class. 😉
But can the school bud be programmed to hit “that” bump (you all know the one) at 50+mph, like all the cool bus drivers did so everybody in the back 3 rows caught air?
We had “that” bump on our bus route. Our bus driver was awesome and would let us bring tapes for him to play on the ride. I clearly remember him blasting the uncensored version of ‘The Roof is on Fire’.
Tom- those bus drivers still exist! My kids had one last year that constantly took strange route and screamed “we’re on an adventure, kids” until some Lexus Mom chased the bus down and complained
Oh man, I had forgotten about “that” bump!
We had one, too, and we figured out that for extra air you could sort of “pre-jump” in your seat. If you timed it right, you’d be coming down just as the bus seat was coming upward, and it would send you higher. (Same basic idea, I think, as when you push down on the trampoline in the moment before someone lands, so it sends them higher…)
I think you forgot the Pao Pleasure Palace in Jasonia and or the Red Taillight District…
That’s on the north side of town near the JAM factory with all of the liquor stores. Thankfully, only Nerf and glue guns are allowed on the island. Grease guns can only be carried by cops.
Just anyone can buy a glue gun there?
With no waiting period?!
When I was a kid we had a waiting period for Nerf and glue guns.
We always had to wait till late December for them, for some reason.
Unless the kids are sedated for the ride to and from school, autonomous busses will quickly become dramatizations of “Lord of the Flies.”
I fell off my couch at the Jason as Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh reference. Changli as a Rolls……too funny.
i watched that play out in real time in the day.
Bishop, you are rolling with the right crew here.
Prelude2Evil- just like Bhagwan, Jason has nearly 90 Changlis in different color schemes.
i wonder how quickly David will Wiki that…..
Just saw the Netflix thing; the blended beavers in the Oregon water supply alone was worth the watch.
But as I recall the details without fact checking (it was a huge thing over the arc of its time) it was at times revered, accepted, than abhorrent as time went on. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajneesh
Newsflash 1985: The Bhagwan Shree Iacocca, whose collection of over a hundred Chrysler K-Cars…
I was a kid in Oregon at the time that whole Bhagwan thing was happening. Even as a kid, who never cared about the news, I still remember hearing the crazy stories about the Rajneeshee and the crap those people pulled. I wonder if Jason could ever form a cult like that? Oh wait, I guess this site is just a modern day Rajneeshpuram. We’re all doomed…
Harris- I originally thought about developing one of those ‘Automotive Country Clubs’ for Autopians but figured it could go badly
IIRC Paul Niedermeyer mentioned once that even in the late ’90s there were parts of Oregon where you wouldn’t want to walk into a roadside store or gas station wearing red.
There’s a funny show called Documentary Now! It’s a mockumentary show. The first and second episodes of the 3rd season make fun of this exact story. Owen Wilson plays the cult leader of a group that takes over an Oregon town.
With respect, you didn’t go far enough outside of the box.
It looks like that Dorwin Teague company was suggesting delivery versions of their little bus as well, but nobody seems to be discussing the fact that these things do no more than stop the parking lot from blowing away for a quarter of the year.
Speaking as a former teenaged heathan, you’re gonna need to lock those controls panels down hard. Never had a taste for malt liquor, but vodka in a Sprite bottle led me and the other last-kid-on-the-route into many, many bad decisions. Decades later-and just off the top of my head-I still think it would be fun to see if the bus could be convinced to run the route in reverse. And, I didn’t have the internet 40 years ago…
TOSSABL- also needs a recording of a fiftysomething woman with a smoker’s voice yelling ‘YOU KIDS SIT DOWN OR I AINT DRIVING NOWHERE’ every ten minutes.
Or “No yelling on the bus!!!” From Billy Madison
I’ve seen a series of YouTube videos from Great Britain where an upright piano is installed in public places and passers by are welcome to sit down and play. If this was attempted in the United States, the piano would be rendered unplayable within 2 hours.
Likewise with summer-idled school buses repurposed into tourist buses. Whether schoolchildren or tourists, the bus would be rendered unusable within hours, if left unsupervised.
It’s very clear that our author is from Great Britain.
There is an upright piano in Union Station in Downtown Los Angeles that people are welcome to sit down and play. I am amazed that it hasn’t been destroyed or otherwise rendered unplayable but there always seem to be security guards close by.
There are definitely public pianos in the US, and in a lot of countries other than GB. Also, they’ve made it clear in the past that The Bishop lives in the Midwestern US somewhere.
Rusts Buckets- that’s right, and I did live in the UK for a time as a kid and it isn’t like they were devoid of vandalism either
eggsalad- you’re wrong. I live in a condo overlooking Borgward Beach in Jasonia. The crime rate is so low as to be nonexistent. The acts of vandalism you describe would result in the punishment of sitting with your eyes propped open to hear Torch talk about Beetle taillights or programming an Apple IIE ..for at least twelve hours. It makes waterboarding look like a shiatsu massage. It’s so bad that Amnesty International has a beef with them. But as a deterrent, it can’t be beat.
There’s some pianos in Denver on 16th Street Mall. I think they are soaked with rage or possibly agony urine. At least that’s what it smells like.
Most of those pianos didn’t last more than six months.
Although when it comes to destroying complicated instruments that were originally intended to be a public good; we usually leave it up to the Conservative party.
Well in our neck of the woods school buses handle 60 kids regularly so order triple amount of buses. Like easy clean out but without a dryer in rare cases a process called oxidation happens. Buses usually do not have AC because they dont run in the summer but metal box standing still was consider inhumane in prisons. And finally a school year is 181 days. So a school bus doesnt run for half the year.
Here is West Texas we run the AC on the buses spring through fall usually. There is only a few weeks between the end of any summer school and the start of the regular school year, which is in early August this year. One of the academic calendar choices had us starting in July.
Also these school bus designs are way too small to function as a school bus. even an orthopedic bus. These drawings/renders seem to repurpose autonomous little shuttle designs.
William- I agree. There would need to be a larger version, which I thought that I mentioned. The main thing is a.) the Teague things are too small and b.) I do know that buses often travel half empty so we need to get a better sense of exactly what capacity needs to be