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New Mobile App Helps Consumers Assess Bus Safety

Recently, a team at the Volpe Center partnered with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to develop and launch the SaferBus app—the first mobile application developed by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT)—to enable users to view the safety records of bus companies. SaferBus, which is available for free for all iOS devices, operates under the motto "look before you book." The app gives users on-the-go access to important safety information about bus operators, providing consumers with the tools to make smart decisions prior to traveling with a particular company. Developed by the Volpe Center, together with FMCSA, the SaferBus app gives travelers mobile access to important safety data.

This app delivers streamlined access to FMCSA safety performance data for the nearly 6,000 interstate commercial passenger carriers operating in the U.S., which includes privately operated motorcoach, school bus, and tour bus companies. These records include a carrier's performance in important safety categories, including unsafe driving and driving under the influence of controlled substances or alcohol, from the agency's Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Safety Measurement System (SMS).

The app also indicates that a company is "Not Allowed to Operate" if that company has been placed out of service or does not have the proper operating authority. If users have a less-than-acceptable experience with a bus company, SaferBus allows them to file complaints by linking to the FMCSA National Consumer Complaint Database.

Among its numerous accolades in the press, SaferBus has been featured in USA Today's Travel section as one of "Five Travel Apps That Could Save Your Life" and by ABC News as a safety resource to use before booking your summer vacation. Volpe information technology specialists developed the architecture of the SaferBus app with an innovative, cost-effective design.

The app uses cloud computing running on infrastructure as a service (IaaS) and platform as a service (PaaS), making the solution highly scalable. Hot deployment allows little or no downtime to the application, ensuring that travelers can access safety information 24 hours a day. In addition, Volpe's team utilized non-proprietary software and subscription services, thus reducing the high licensing costs associated with the traditional software development model.

FMCSA has asked Volpe to develop a SaferBus app for the Android platform as well, which would expand the tool's mobile reach beyond the Apple iPhone and iPad devices. Volpe is currently working on mobile apps for other DOT agencies.    

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