Remember those noisy early morning and midafternoon rides spent bouncing around in an uncomfortable school bus with squeaky brakes, torn seats, year-old gum stuck to the floor and a driver with an attitude?

Forget it all.The school bus of the future - smarter, safer, sleeker, crammed full of gee-whiz technology and environmentally friendly - has been created.

"This is space age. This is the school bus for the 21st century," said Randy McLerran, a participant at this week's Southeastern States Pupil Transportation Conference in Oklahoma City.

The 78-passenger prototype vehicle has front, side and rear cameras and a radar system to show where schoolchildren are located outside and inside the bus.

"There are no blind spots," McLerran, transportation director for the Oklahoma Education Department, said of the "Environbus 2000."

The vehicle is constructed with composite materials that are stronger than steel, he said.

The bus has a heads-up display panel which provides the driver with instrument data, route information and warning messages projected onto the windshield. The panel, used in military fighter jets, allows drivers to keep their eyes trained on the road ahead instead of having to look down.

One unusual feature of the bus is a "hologram" stop-sign system in the front and rear of the vehicle that takes the place of the conventional stop arm. High-intensity signs appear in the front and back windshields of the bus when the bus door opens.

The bus has a "global mapping system" that utilizes satellite technology to provide dispatchers with an exact location of the bus, McLerran explained.

Dispatchers also can monitor how fast the bus is traveling and if it makes each scheduled pickup. A computer system shows drivers the route they're on, how far they are from the next bus stop and the names of students at each stop.

The driver's console includes a two-way communications system via cellular phones and an emergency alarm system, both of which are tuned in to the bus dispatcher's office.

The futuristic bus has a larger front windshield than conventional school buses. Passenger windows also are larger. The futuristic bus has lap-and-shoulder seat belts.

Seat sizes are adjustable to accommodate passengers "from preschool kids to adults," McLerran said.

The seats are five inches higher. Aisles are wider, and fiber-optic aisle lighting provides more safety for passengers, he added.

Video monitors and a speaker system are in place. McLerran envisions an on-board VCR being used for educational programming, noting that in some areas children can spend as much as two hours per day riding a school bus.

The bus is powered by compressed natural gas.

But as yet, the bus doesn't have a price tag.