- Paintwork, flashing lights and stop sign improve perceptual safety
Safety is one of the core values of the Mercedes-Benz brand. Practically every automotive safety system that has been developed over the past several decades was first tested and introduced as standard in Mercedes-Benz vehicles. Whether it be the safety passenger cell, safety steering system, anti-lock braking system, airbag or Electronic Stability Program (ESP), these and a wealth of other systems all made their debuts in passenger cars, vans, trucks, buses and coaches displaying the Mercedes star.
So it comes as no surprise that Mercedes-Benz is also committed to ensuring safe school-bus transport, in this case as an exclusive partner in the „New Generation School Bus“ concept – a pilot project organised by the Upper Austria State Government, first unveiled to the public in Linz/Austria on January 31, 2006. The new minibus – the brainchild of Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH in Dortmund, authorised importer Mercedes-Benz Austria and local dealer Pappas Linz – was designed specifically for the Austrian school-bus project, which is scheduled to run for 11 months. In addition to the already extensive safety package specified as standard for Sprinter minibuses, this vehicle features a raft of additional safety measures, some of which have been implemented for the very first time, making this minibus the safest school bus currently on the road in Austria. Between now and early 2007, the new school-bus concept will be showcased at numerous events all over Austria whilst being optimised on an on-going basis.
Exemplary safety equipment in the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter
The New Generation School Bus concept is based on a standard Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 313 CDI minibus with a wheelbase length of 3,550 mm and a raised roof. This particular vehicle is extremely compact and manoeuvrable thanks to its overall length of just 5,640 mm and a small turning circle. The Sprinter already features an extensive standard equipment package – including an anti-lock braking system (ABS), acceleration skid control (ASR), Brake Assist (BAS), electronic brake force distribution (EBV) and the Electronic Stability Program (ESP) – making it the undisputed leader in its class.
Paintwork, flashing lights and stop sign improve perceptual safety
Out on the road, the luminous yellow paintwork makes the concept vehicle really stand out. Further features which increase other road users’ awareness and, therefore, enhance road safety include the standard-fit third brake light in the double-rear-door portal and the raised position of the rear indicators which are complemented by four yellow/red flashing warning lights on the roof. These lights improve perceptual safety substantially when the school bus is coming to a stop.
Another, equally noticeable feature is the fold-out stop sign with two integrated flashing lights on the left at the rear of the sidewall, which the driver operates simply by pressing a button after stopping the bus. The stop sign and the flashing lights serve as an unequivocal reminder for other road users, indicating that it is forbidden to overtake a stopping school bus, since this law often goes unheeded. When the driver releases the handbrake and starts off again, the sign is retracted automatically and the flashing lights switch off.
Numerous safety extras fitted ex factory
Whereas the flashing lights and stop sign are specifically designed for the New Generation School Bus, further safety-enhancing options – such as the heated windscreen with rain sensor, two additional exterior mirrors, fog lamps, daytime running lights, a co-driver airbag and reinforced suspension – can be fitted ex factory. The TEMPMATIC air-conditioning system with temperature control, in this case supplemented by an additional air-conditioning unit for the rear compartment, improves driver-fitness safety and, therefore, road safety in general, especially in mid-summer. It also helps to keep the windows clear.
Electrically operated sliding door and electric step
Easy access to the passenger compartment is provided by a sliding door on the right-hand side of the vehicle. The door is electrically operated by the driver and comes fitted with an obstruction sensor as well as a door-reversing device. An automatic step – controlled by a door contact switch which extends or retracts the step when the sliding door is operated – enhances both safety and convenience, since it reduces the school bus entrance height by approx. 100 mm to 230 mm. This aspect is of particular benefit to younger passengers and passengers with restricted mobility. Last but not least, the extended step bridges the gap between the vehicle and the kerb – a further safety-enhancing feature.
A camera system enables the driver to keep an eye on passengers boarding the bus at all times with a minimum of effort. The images filmed by the exterior camera above the sliding door are sent to a flat-screen monitor on the dashboard and are also recorded. The camera is switched on automatically when the door is opened. An exterior loudspeaker near the sliding door allows the driver to address the waiting passengers, while interior lighting including additional night-lighting aids orientation in the passenger compartment when it is dark outside.
Seven passenger seats with three-point seat belts, lift and floor rails for wheelchair users
There is room for up to seven schoolchildren on board the new school bus. The passenger compartment contains either five single seats and two folding seats or five seats for schoolchildren plus two wheelchair spaces, with a driver’s and co-driver’s seat at the front in each case. The seats in the rear are attached to a floor-rail system, while the restraint systems take account of both age and weight. All the seats have three-point seat belts. Safety considerations mean that there is no standing room available on board the New Generation School Bus.
The two single seats at the rear can be folded together and swivelled to the side in order to carry up to two passengers with restricted mobility and their wheelchairs. The wheelchairs are lifted on board by an electro-hydraulically operated lift at the rear of the vehicle. Here they are securely fastened to the floor rails using a system of special belts. The wheelchair users themselves wear separate seat belts.
Should the school bus be involved in an accident, a crash recorder similar to those carried in aircraft enables rapid and precise analysis of the accident. The unit automatically records the main handling-dynamics data in the final seconds leading up to an accident. This information has to be extremely precise and so includes details of whether the horn or direction indicators were operated at critical times, for example.
A project implemented with the help of specialist project partners
Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH, Mercedes-Benz Austria and Pappas Linz worked together with numerous specialist project partners to implement the New Generation School Bus concept, notably the Upper Austria State Transport Department, the Upper Austria Chamber of Commerce, the Upper Austria Federation of Parent Associations, the Austrian Automobile Club (ÖAMTC), the Austrian Police and the Austrian Traffic Safety Committee, especially Professor Hermann Steffan from Graz Technical University and the crash-recorder manufacturer Siemens-VDO.
Mercedes-Benz Minibus GmbH is a subsidiary of EvoBus GmbH – responsible for bus and coach activities within the DaimlerChrysler Group – and is currently Europe’s largest minibus body manufacturer.