Manatee County school rolls out $2 million smart school buses

As a school bus driver, Carol Johnson-Smith has seen a lot on the road driving students to and from school over the past ten years.

"Picking up and dropping off we see a lot of people that don’t respect the bus or seem to have concern for the kids. When we do student stops we have many cars that run the stop arm," she said.

Johnson-Smith has been with the Manatee School of the Arts for the past five years and it recently unveiled 16 new, $2 million buses outfitted with top-of-the-line technology designed to keep students safe and give parents peace of mind.

"We wanted the best buses with the best safest record out there," explained Tim McMurray, chief financial officer for Manatee School for the Arts.

McMurray says the technology gives drivers views from all around the bus. Sensors put out an alarm if cars don't stop for crossing students and automatic braking and warning about lane drifting will also aid drivers.

"There’s a combination of radar and camera technology that’s not integrated that’s never been out before in the busing industry," said McMurray.

As students get on and off the bus they swipe a card and an alert is sent to their parents letting them know of their whereabouts. Students can even track the bus on an app and buses are outfitted with Wi-Fi for students.

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"Student safety is our first priority, get them here safely, get them home safely and at the same time not to be a discomfort during the service," said McMurray.

As the first school in Florida with this technology, MSA hopes to become a model when it comes to student and driver safety.

"It's not taking our place, but it’s an extra added safety, we will still tell students to keep their eye on the driver, but the bus alarm that is just amazing," shared Johnson-Smith.

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The buses will roll out on August 10.

Manatee School for the Arts is currently hiring additional bus drivers. Anyone interested in applying for a position can contact the school at (941) 721-6800 for more information. 

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