Car Industry

NHTSA tells Transdev to stop using self-driving shuttles as school buses

NHTSA's deputy administrator called it "irresponsible" and "inappropriate."

Transdev

Using self-driving shuttles to take adults around town is one thing, but stocking one full of schoolchildren is another story, and that move has one mobility company facing the wrath of the federal government.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has sent a letter to Transdev, requesting that it stop using its EZ10 Generation II autonomous shuttle as a school bus. The 12-person shuttle is (or, rather, was) used to take children to and from Babcock Neighborhood School in Babcock Ranch, Florida.

"Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety," said Heidi King, NHTSA's deputy administrator, in a statement released Friday. "Using a noncompliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev's approved test project."

I'm surprised Transdev didn't get the federal smackdown the second it issued its September press release about its intentions.

Transdev

NHTSA claims that Transdev was given permission to "temporarily" import its driverless shuttle for "testing and demonstration purposes," and that the company never received the green light from the feds to use it as a school bus. School buses require a whole separate set of vehicle safety standards due to their single purpose. If Transdev doesn't take heed immediately, NHTSA said it could result in a "civil penalty action," in addition to a revocation of the shuttle's importation authorization.

Transdev did not immediately return a request for comment, but NHTSA said Transdev signaled that it would cease the unlawful activity.

Transdev announced that it would put its shuttle to use as a school bus on Sept. 5. The 12-person shuttle is fully electric, and for the time being, it was limited to just 8 mph, but adding "necessary infrastructure" could have boosted that speed to 30 mph in due time. It had a human driver on board in case of an emergency, but it operated autonomously on its single route between the school and the designated pick-up and drop-off point.

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