MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Ask any school bus driver their worst fears and you’ll likely get a candid response.

MTI driver Andrew Kropp simply says, “extremely frustrating.” Kropp drives routes for the Hopkins school district and sees the danger far too often: distracted or inattentive motorists blowing by the school bus stop arms.

Last January, a 10-year-old Wabasha County girl escaped death by mere inches when a speeding driver failed to stop for the bus on a county road near Zumbrota.

“We’re already worried about how many kids got off, are they are in front of the bus, under the bus, we shouldn’t have to worry about guys blowing it whether blatantly or accidentally blowing it,” Kropp said.

His school bus is one of four in the district now testing a new device that can anticipate danger before it hits. The device is made by the Safe Fleet Company.

It works by combining radar technology and artificial intelligence. When a vehicle approaches the bus predictive analytics in the software can immediately determine whether or not that vehicle is going to stop in time.

“The great part about the system is that it is fully automated,” Safe Fleet’s Chris Akiyama said.

The company calls the device Predictive Stop Arm, or PSA for short. Its goal is to alert both the bus driver and school children outside.

“Using radar, it will sense the vehicle, it will determine its speed and distance. And based on that speed and distance it will provide variable warning to students and driver,” Akiyama said.

Hopkins schools are one of five locations in the country testing the device. Director of Transportation, Derrick Agate likes what he’s hearing from his drivers.

“It prevents the child from ever stepping out into the roadway, when the system predicts the motorist will not stop,” Agate said.

Besides a warning, high definition cameras record the offense. For drivers like Kropp, it’s an extra set of eyes.

“It’s definitely predicting, it’s definitely warning kids, it’s doing its job,” Kropp said.

Preventing injuries and saving lives, Safe Fleet is now commercially marketing its PSA devices at a cost of between $2,000 and $3,000 per installation.

Bill Hudson

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