The world’s first autonomous school bus service has been shut down in Florida.
The National Highway & Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has shut down an autonomous school bus service in Babcock Ranch, Florida for operating illegally outside of permit, according to a statement from the agency.
In a world’s first, Transdev North America operated a driverless shuttle service in the small Southwest Florida town, taking students to and from school every day. Transdev is a Paris France-based company that focuses on developing autonomous shuttles for public transportation projects.
In a statement posted to the NHTSA website, the agency explained that the Transdev shuttles operated outside of their approved permits, which allowed for testing and demonstration use only.
"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."
Transdev operated their EZ10 Generation II driverless shuttles since the beginning of the school year, picking up and dropping off 12 students at a time. Although driverless, each shuttle had a safety attendant aboard at all times that could take control of the vehicle if it were to somehow go astray.
However, the shuttles could only move at roughly 8 mph, making the likelihood of a crash quite remote.
As automotive website Jalopnik points out, it seems curious that the NHTSA would wait until the end of October to shut down Transdev considering that they made their intentions clear. In August, Transdev announced their partnership with Babcock Ranch to bring the world’s first autonomous school bus service, even issuing a promotional video at the time.
The story was also picked up by local news as well as Fox-branded national news outlets.
Transdev argued that the bussing service was intended for demonstration purposes, to which the NHTSA responded that “school buses are subject to rigorous Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards that take into account their unique purpose of transporting children, a vulnerable population,” for which Transdev had not received proper permits.