Design Firm Envisions the Driverless School Bus of the Future

iStock
iStock

Engineers have already designed vehicles capable of shuttling pizzas, packages, and public transit passengers without a driver present. But few have considered how this technology can be used to transport our most precious cargo: kids. Though most parents would be hesitant to send their children on a bus with no one in the driver's seat, one design firm believes autonomous vehicle technology can change their rides for the better. Their new conceptual project, called Hannah, illustrates their ideas for the future of school bus travel.

As Co.Design reports, Seattle-based design firm Teague tackled both the practical challenges and the social hurdles when designing their driverless school bus. Instead of large buses filled with dozens of kids, each Hannah vehicle is designed to hold a maximum of six passengers at a time. This offers two benefits: One, fewer kids on the route means the bus can afford to pick up each student at his or her doorstep rather than a designated bus stop. Facial recognition software would ensure every child is accounted for and that no unwanted passengers can gain access.

The second benefit is that a smaller number of passengers could help prevent bullying onboard. Karin Frey, a University of Washington sociologist who consulted with the team, says that larger groups of students are more likely to form toxic social hierarchies on a school bus. The six seats inside Hannah, which face each other cafeteria table-style, would theoretically place kids on equal footing.

Another way Hannah can foster a friendlier school bus atmosphere is inclusive design. Instead of assigning students with disabilities to separate cars, everyone can board Hannah regardless of their abilities. The vehicle drives low to the ground and extends a ramp to the road when dropping off passengers. This makes the boarding and drop-off process the same for everyone.

While the autonomous vehicles lack human supervisors, the buses can make up for this in other ways. Hannah can drive both backwards and forwards and let out children on either side of the car (hence the palindromic name). And when the bus isn’t ferrying kids to school, it can earn money for the district by acting as a delivery truck.

Still, it may be a while before you see Hannah zipping down your road: Devin Liddel, the project’s head designer, says it could take at least five years after driverless cars go mainstream for autonomous school buses to start appearing. All the regulations that come with anything involving public schools would likely prevent them from showing up any sooner. And when they do arrive, Teague suspects that major tech corporations could be the ones to finally clear the path.

"Could Amazon or Lyft—while deploying a future of roving, community-centric delivery vehicles—take over the largest form of mass transit in the United States as a sort of side gig?" the firm's website reads. "Hannah is an initial answer, a prototype from the future, to these questions."

[h/t Co.Design]

Playing Jeopardy! While You Drive Is the Best Way to Deal With Your Boring Commute

Ben Hider, Getty Images
Ben Hider, Getty Images

More than 55 years after making its television debut, Jeopardy! continues to hold a prominent place in popular culture. Last spring, James Holzhauer went on a 32-game winning streak, coming just $58,484 short of beating all-time champion (and Mental Floss contributor) Ken Jennings' $2.52 million winnings.

If only Holzhauer had an app to practice with during the drive to the studio. Now, thanks to Drivetime, future contestants and general trivia enthusiasts have that opportunity. The service just launched a Jeopardy! add-on that allows players to answer questions from the first 35 seasons of the show using Drivetime’s voice-based, hands-free interface. A new show will be available to Drivetime users daily. If they subscribe for $9.99 monthly, they can choose any show from past seasons. Questions are read by host Alex Trebek in both archival and recently taped audio.

The game offers one tweak for civilians: As each clue is read, the app offers three possible responses, turning it into a multiple-choice quiz. Money is still accrued and you can still wager on Final Jeopardy to walk away with a victory.

[h/t Engadget]

Need Help Cleaning Up the Dog Poop in Your Yard? There’s an App for That

schulzie/iStock via Getty Images
schulzie/iStock via Getty Images

You love your dog, but you surely don't love what they behind in the yard for you to clean up. In most cases, scooping up poop is an unpleasant but unavoidable part of pet parenthood. Now, as WGN9 reports, there's a way to keep your yard looking pristine without breaking out the waste disposal bags. A business called Plowz & Mowz will come to your home and scoop the poop for you.

Plowz & Mowz is like Taskrabbit for outdoor chores. The app was built around services like plowing driveways, mowing lawns, and mulching gardens, and it recently added pet waste removal to its list.

If you want to get rid of the dog poop on your lawn without getting your hands dirty, download the Plowz & Mowz app and request a poop-scooper to come to your home. After answering a few questions about your property, you'll receive a free quote with the option to set up a date for the service. A contractor will come to your house, update you throughout the process, and send a photo of your poop-free yard once they've finished the task.

Plowz & Mowz is currently operating in more than 40 metro areas, including, Boston, Dallas, Chicago, and Atlanta. To see if the app's poop-removal service is available in your area, you can enter your ZIP code on the website.

Cleaning up waste isn't necessarily time-consuming work, but it's something many pet owners avoid doing at all costs. Some apartment complexes have even started using DNA testing to identify the culprits behind unattended pet poo.

[h/t WGN9]

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