An autonomous, electric school bus has been transporting Florida children to school unlawfully.
Interestingly, this fully self-driving bus has been in operation since August 31, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is just now taking notice despite a previous public media launch. The bus -- coined the EZ10 Generation II -- is manufactured by Transdev North America. It currently only travels at a mere 8 mph and has a safety operator in tow, however, the NHTSA stopped its travels immediately and issued a scathing statement upon being apprised
When the electric, autonomous EZ10 II first went into service, Transdev issued a press release revealing the exciting news. The literature made it clear that the bus was going to be used to take kids to school. There was also a video promotion that was widely distributed. The news was even featured on television and online. However, the NHTSA missed all the publicity.
Of course, the NHTSA is busy and can't make it a point to follow all local news, but the administration had already been made previously aware of the vehicle's existence, as well as testing pursuits. In fact, nearly six months earlier, the NHTSA gave Transdev permission to test the bus. Apparently, tests and demos were not to involve actual school transport. The organization points out (via Autoblog):
... use of the driverless shuttle to transport school children is unlawful and in violation of the company's temporary importation authorization.
The bus is able to travel at speeds of up to 30 mph and can only fit a total of 12 children. The company also says it can drive itself completely, without the help of a human. In these early testing stages, and without the proper infrastructure, it was only operating at low speeds and with a safety operator on board at all times. NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King shared:
Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety. 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.
It's of the utmost importance that new transportation technology be approved and meet NHTSA regulations. What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.
Video via Transdev North America on YouTube:
Transdev, Babcock Ranch Pilot Autonomous School Shuttle