Kettering Partners with Navistar to Make Buses Safer

Kettering Partners with Navistar to Make Buses Safer

Students from Kettering University are working on ways to make school buses safer.

The team is in the fourth year of a five-year project with Navistar, an Illinois-based manufacturer of school buses and semi-trucks. This year, the Kettering team is developing the automation of vehicle detection behavior capabilities to classify human transient behavior to detect when a child and/or an article of clothing of a child is pinched in the bus door, to automate passenger counting, and to detect bullying to trace and other hazardous passenger situations.

Students use artificial intelligence, algorithms and models to develop a low-cost platform to take pictures of the children and keep a count to report to the driver, ensuring that the drivers do not leave students on the bus when they park and the garage for the day. Other artificial intelligence-based software will detect if a child and/or their backpack or clothes are in the danger zone of being pinched in the door.

So far, Navistar is pleased with the students’ work.

“It’s thinking outside the box,” said Dr. Teik-Khoon Tan, Senior Technical Specialist of Navistar, said. “We need innovation, so our strategy is to collaborate with universities. Without it, we don’t have other innovative perspectives. To teach students, the learning and growth is very high. I am very impressed.”

He has prof. Dr. Mehrdad Zadeh for electrical and computer engineering praised for his “high emotional quotient” or ability to understand others’ emotions.

“[Zadeh] listen, and [the students] can learn what our customer really needs,” said Tan. “Listen to what our pain points are so we can be in a good marriage. This is a perfect marriage. I am very happy.”

In the first three years of the partnership, students worked on autonomous sensors and video, segmentation and behavioral learning.

“All of this is part of artificial intelligence, and now we’re starting with behavioral learning when you get on the bus. They will know who you are when you bully children,” said Tan, noting that the system will know this behavior is inappropriate.

Instead of using computers, the team uses recycled cell phones to capture the data, which is a cost-effective way to provide customers with the security apps they need.

“This is important for production because we don’t have to redevelop everything off the shelf,” said Tan.

He and Noah Wilson, advanced technology engineer at Navistar, worked with the team.

“The students are very bright and clearly hard-working,” Wilson said. “Almost all the work was done by the students. We played more of an advisory role.”

Amanuel Weldemichael (’23, CE) worked on the automated passenger counter portion of the project.

“I’m interested in [Advanced Driver Assistance Systems] ADAS and autonomous vehicle solutions,” he said.

His biggest challenge was using familiar models on edge devices for real-time applications.

A senior technical specialist from Navistar talks to Kettering University students about their work. Navistar employees talk to Kettering University students about their work.

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