Hillsborough County school buses get GPS, digital video cameras

THONOTOSASSA, Fla. - In Hillsborough County, the country's eighth-largest school system, transportation issues are intimidating.

"We have 90,000+ kids that we transport on a daily basis," said transportation director John Franklin, whose job it is to keep track of all of it.  "We have 1,411 buses in the fleet."

These days, it's getting a bit easier for him to keep a handle on things as a multi-million dollar program is equipping all of the rolling stock with not one, but two cameras tied to a digital video recorder and global positioning satellites, to go along with an updated radio system.

"The technology is there to maintain safety," he said, "assist our drivers, assist our students."

On-board video is nothing new.  We've seen scenes captured by VCR-based systems with varying degrees of success. But tapes sometimes got recorded over and, wore out.

"Imagine," said Franklin, "if you took your old VCR and you put it your hot garage and you ran it 40 hours a week. Just imagine how reliable it would be after multiple weeks."

But now, with the same sort of digital, tape-less technology that we use to bring you high definition TV, these surveillance shots will be that much more helpful for law enforcement.

And the GPS pin-pointing the exact location of every bus on the road takes real-time tracking to the next level.

"It's an important safety feature to determine where buses are, should an emergency occur," said Franklin. "It's also an important planning feature, when we're looking at distance and travel and congested areas."

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