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Taking a Front Seat to Technology at New Flyer's Vehicle Innovation Center

Posted by FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams

One of my more memorable experiences since becoming FTA acting administrator a few months ago was taking the wheel of a virtual bus as part of a state-of-the-art simulation exercise at the New Flyer Vehicle Innovation Center (VIC) in Anniston, Alabama.

During the October grand opening ceremony of the VIC, a manufacturing lab and training facility for new-technology buses, I drove a simulation bus used for operator training. It opened my eyes to the challenges bus operators face every day, even though my track was mostly obstacle free. Moreover, I took a front seat to the high-tech future of driver training, which should go a long way toward improving safety.

Technology was on display throughout the VIC on the opening day. New Flyer of America, the largest transit vehicle manufacturer in North America, has more than 50 years of experience in manufacturing next-generation buses. The company opened the center, which includes a manufacturing lab, exhibit space, and training areas, to continue to advance bus technology through sustainable research and development.

For several years, New Flyer has produced buses using zero-emission technology, and many of those vehicles populate fleets that have received FTA Low or No-Emission Grants. The program provides funding to state and local governmental authorities to purchase or lease low-emission buses as well as charging facilities and other supportive technology. 

New-technology buses are gaining in popularity as agencies realize cost-savings thanks to reduced fuel and lessened maintenance because vehicles run on fewer parts. The changes equate to thousands of dollars over the life of each vehicle. Moreover, they run quietly and emit minimal particulates or carbon monoxide, key components of smog. Passengers report that they enjoy the quieter, odorless travel.

Thanks to the Low-No program, transit agencies can test electric buses from various bus manufacturers before they invest in an entire fleet. Low-No also supports bus manufacturers, helping create American jobs and making sure there’s a market for the new buses while transit agencies learn how to use them.

Learn more about the impact of our Low and No Emission Grants program in our latest video.

After a century of gas-fueled bus transit, it’s time to explore a new way of moving people. New Flyer is among the companies on the vanguard of exploring new bus technologies.

The VIC’s focus on innovation reflects a priority of Secretary Chao, and DOT has embraced technology as a way to grow the economy and make transportation safer and more efficient. Whether it’s automated vehicles, Next-Gen air traffic control, or Low- and No-Emission transit buses, we are happy to champion their efforts.

Not only will the VIC take an in-depth look at supportive technologies, such as electric charging systems, it also will help prepare workers for new technologies in interactive classrooms. The result of collaboration among New Flyer, the city, and the state, the VIC provides a great example of what public-private partnerships can accomplish.