US Agency Shuts Down Autonomous School Bus Trial
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has put a halt to a pilot study for ferrying kids to school in an autonomous vehicle. Apparently, Transdev, a French transportation company, had been operating a school bus route in Babcock, Florida, using an autonomous tech that the Federal Agency had not approved.
It would seem that Transdev was given an inch and took a mile. Initially, it was permitted by the NHTSA to import the vehicle so that it could test and demonstrate the vehicle on American roads. But the company started a ferry service with the 12-person shuttle to the Babcock Neighbourhood School.
At all times, the bus had a safety driver on board and never exceeded 8 miles an hour to cover the less than 15-minute journey, but even this level of planning did not satisfy the Feds, who called time on the pilot study. Of course, innovation must never come at the cost of public safety and thus using a vehicle that has not been certified by the proper regulatory authorities can at best be described as irresponsible.
Public transportation and thus school buses are clearly an area where the use of autonomous vehicles may become widespread. There will be a requirement to rigorously test them in real-world scenarios. But testing them with kids on board has definitely earned Transdev a big red ‘F’ in the NHTSA grade book.