Information Systems Integration – Messina

Are self-driving shuttles safe to be school buses?

EZ10 Generation photo

EZ10 Generation II is the autonomous electric shuttle designed by EasyMile. The shuttle can hold upto 12 people. EZ10 Generation II is used as the school bus on September 5 to take children to and from Babcock Neighborhood School in Babcock Ranch, Florida. However, 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. NHTSA’s deputy administrator worries about the safety of this electric shuttle and having children on this shuttle is dangerous. NHTSA claims that Transdev was only given permission for testing and that the company never received the green light from the feds to use it as a school bus. Transdev said the 12-person shuttle bus would operate from a designated pick-up area with a safety attendant on board and would travel at a top speed of 8mph (13kph), with the potential to reach speeds of 30mph once the additional infrastructure was completed. 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. Is the self-drying shuttle safe enough to be a school bus?


4 Responses to Are self-driving shuttles safe to be school buses?

  • Personally, I believe the vehicle is likely safe for continued testing on Friday’s. The shuttle operates at a very low speed, has only six seats, has a minder onboard carrying override controls, and has a very short route, one that children normally walk or bike the other four days of the week. Furthermore, the community of Babcock Ranch is a planned, public-private partnership community in southwest Florida, breaking ground in 2015. If you read about the community on their website, they tout the sustainability of their 100% solar-powered neighborhood, implying that the electric, autonomous shuttles are part of their master plan of an ecologically friendly community. Since the community has been designed to accommodate the shuttle, there may be little other physical infrastructure needed to make the shuttle any safer in its current testing phase. I think the project was likely halted because EasyMile is a French company (the NHTSA doesn’t normally allow foreign companies using on foreign automotive standards to operate in America) and the school bus lobby doesn’t want any additional competition in the industry.

  • Hung,
    I thought you brought up very interesting points on how Florida Highway Safety and Administration view’s the risk of using the autonomous shuttle as a school bus. As it is very early in the lifespan of the technology it is expected that the public is weary against a computer driving little kids to school. But Ultimately, as the tech advances and matures, I think there could be possible legal arguments that autonomous cars are safer than humans in many cases. It will be interesting to see as time goes how government, Highway, and Traffic Agencies view this in implementing laws and regulations on the road. A lot of people are questioning how much humans will be driving in the future, and some people are even arguing that humans will be banned completely. I think may be a stretch, but it will be interesting to see the network effect if humans are banned from driving in certain areas. This could have a huge effect for many industries, with the insurance industry having a huge downside.

  • Hi Hung,
    This was a very interesting read, and I never thought about how self driving cars may impact how children get to school. I personally have mixed ideas on how this would work if it were to become a legal option. I have seen news reports of bus drivers driving recklessly, or driving under the influence. With self driving buses, this would be stopped, but other issues may be worsened. When children are very young, they may forget to get off at the correct stop and I have heard of some children being left on a bus. If a child is left on a bus in the hot sun, they may end up dying. I don’t see how a self driving bus would be able to detect a child that is still on the bus, or if a child got off at the wrong stop. They would probably have to hire an adult to still be on the bus, which would add costs. I think because it has to do with children, they should stick to what is overall working right now.

  • Hello Hung,
    I am very apprehensive of self-driving cars, so I personally do not really think it is a good idea. Anything could happen for example what if it malfunctions, then all those innocent kids could get very hurt. If they did enough testing and could ensure everyone’s safety 100 percent, then obviously it could be a good idea, but honestly why fix something that is not broken. It is not a huge problem to drive kids to school every day and it would cause many school bus drivers to potentially lose their job. Also, speeds of 8 mph would take a very long time depending the distance, so it does not really seem like the most efficient way.

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