School buses can’t drive themselves, yet

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a letter directing Transdev North America to immediately stop transporting school children in the Babcock Ranch community in southwest Florida on the EZ10 Generation II driverless shuttle. Transdev’s use of the driverless shuttle to transport school children is unlawful and in violation of the company’s temporary importation authorization.

NHTSA’s action aligns with the Department’s guidance related to automated vehicles, as most recently outlined in “Automated Vehicles 3.0: Preparing for the Future of Transportation.

“Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator.  “Using a non-compliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev’s approved test project.”

In March 2018, NHTSA granted Transdev permission to temporarily import the driverless shuttle for testing and demonstration purposes. Transdev failed to disclose or receive approval for use as a school bus but then transported children to school. That usage is subject to rigorous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that take into account their unique purpose of transporting children, a vulnerable population, the agency said.

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