globally will be at risk. Tesla is now offering insurance for Tesla owners in

California. Tesla’s cars have 85 percent fewer accidents per million miles traveled compared to regular gas cars with no autonomous features. Tesla insurance rates are 20- to 30-percent lower than those from traditional in- surance companies. Do you think this spells disruption for the insurance industry? The important point is that autonomous vehicle mean

lower cost of ownership on many different levels: re- pairs, law suits and insurance are just a few.

Autonomous Vehicles Waymo is Google’s self driving car division that

has driven 20 million miles. Tesla drivers have driven 3-billion miles in autonomous mode. We are not that far away from the technology being capable of autonomous driving. Law makers will have to catch up with the regulatory environment. While the cost of cars has remained constant for

almost 100 years at 70 cents per mile, the moment we have autonomous fleets of cars—think about Uber and Lyft just without a driver—the cost of travel drops to 25 cents a mile. At that point, the number of Americans buying cars will drop. I don’t foresee a future where we won’t have an adult

on a school bus. Once we do get to fully autonomous systems, the adult might be an activity coordinator. Autonomous or, more aptly for school buses, auto-

mated fleets can have other benefits for school districts. Imagine being able to get more drivers by having autonomous vehicles pick up drivers on a route in the morning to get the yard.

Changing Business Model The town of Innisfil north of Toronto where I live is using Uber as its public transit. The town is saving $8 million a year by not having to buy buses, hire drivers and have a maintenance yard and staff. And which would you rather do in minus 20-degree

weather? Wait at a bus stop, praying that the bus arrives soon, or be treated like the president of any small republic and have the car pull right up in front of your home and take you to where you want to go? (The only difference being that you might stop on the way to pick up other people but you’ll be dropped off at your destination.) We often think that if you have a higher quality of

service, you have to pay a higher price. That’s true if you do things the way you’ve always done them. In this case, the residents and taxpayers in Innisfil are getting better service at a lower price. How could insights from this example help student transportation directors? Some districts with low population density and students in far-flung directions are using less expen-

32 School Transportation News • NOVEMBER 2020

sive smaller vehicles, like vans or even cars, to pick up students that would otherwise require more expensive buses to drive thousands of extra miles per year. I was working with part makers in Sweden. One of the firms represented at the event was Volvo. One of the sales reps told the following story:

“We were working with a U.S. municipality that had

no capital budget to buy buses. We just weren’t going to make a sale. But this municipality had [an] operating budget. You’ve heard of SaaS (Software as a Service)? With an

SaaS model you don’t actually buy or own the software you essentially rent it on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. So, we adjusted our business model to essentially rent

our buses to this municipality. There were lots of chal- lenges in working through all the details of the contract. But we did it.”

I’ve found over the years that the key to successful

consulting is coining a new term that becomes a buzz word. Here’s one of mine: BaaS. Buses as a Service.

Preventative Maintenance I was in Rome for the launch of a Trenitalia’s new high speed-train that does 224 mph (360 km/hour). The com- pany had installed 1,000 sensors on the train to monitor wear and tear of parts. Maintenance historically has been scheduled based

on the timeline for when a part will wear out on average. But some parts break down before they are meant to and some later, which means that maintenance is either reactive, or replacing parts before they need to be. Using the sensors is the key to replacing parts before they break. It is saving Trenitalia 10 percent of its €1.4 Billion ($2 billion U.S.) a year maintenance budget. The result is fewer breakdowns, increased safety, increased on time performance, higher customer satisfaction while achieving significant savings! That’s a win-win- win-win-win strategy. This is called the Internet of Things—or IoT—because

all the parts are connected and monitored remotely via the Internet. ●

Jim Harris was a recent keynote speaker at the first ever virtual Bus Technology Summit. He is also the author of the Blindsided, which focuses on disruptive innovation. It is published in 80 countries worldwide and is a No. 1 international bestseller. He is currently working on a

new book, which will contain research he has performed on the school bus industry. You can follow him on Twitter @JimHarris or email him at

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