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October 05,2018 - Transdev Launches Pilot Program for Driverless School Buses in Florida

【Summary】Transdev has been managing driverless shuttles in the city since January. The pilot involving autonomous school buses is expected to turn into a full-service operation by 2019.

Michael Cheng    Sep 28, 2018 6:00 AM PT

Transdev Launches Pilot Program for Driverless School Buses in Florida

author: Michael Cheng

Autonomous vehicles are being developed to transport different types of cargo, objects, as well as individuals. From commuters to students, driverless technology will revolutionize the way people travel on a daily basis.

Transdev, a French transport operator, is leading a very important pilot program that aims to test the use of self-driving buses for young students. The trials will take place in Babcock Ranch – a solar-powered town located in Florida (northeast of Fort Myers). During the pilot, kids participating in the temporary program can catch rides on an autonomous school bus from a specific pick-up area in the city.

Autonomous School Buses

According to Transdev, the shuttles will look like traditional school buses, with yellow and black finishes for distinction on the road. For now, the pick-up and drop-off stations are located in the same area. However, in the future, the service will cater to door-to-door, as well as on-demand shuttling for students. Offered as a paid service (rides on fixed routes are currently free), the latter option will be facilitated through a mobile app.

During use, the driverless buses can hold up to 12 kids at one time. Inside the units, kids are seated on benches, facing each other. As for the traveling speed of the yellow shuttles, Transdev will cap cruising speeds at 8 mph, at the start of the program. Eventually, the transport operator will increase the speed (incrementally) up to 30 mph.

To ensure safety, the autonomous units will be equipped with automatic/emergency breaking, which can react up to 30 times faster than human drivers. Moreover, a bus representative will be present inside the vehicles. Large doors that slide outwards allow numerous kids to board and exit the bus simultaneously.

“For many of the kids moving in and living here, autonomous school shuttles will be the only school transit they ever know,” said Syd Kitson, CEO of Kitson & Partners, which developed Babcock Ranch, in a statement.

“I’m definitely jealous of them and so proud of this concept.”

EasyMile Easy10 Gen II

The buses being deployed for the trial consist of driverless EasyMile Easy10 Gen II. For shuttling applications, the units are designed to travel at 12-30mph. Interestingly, they are also fully electric. This is a huge plus for the city of Babcock Ranch, as the local residents are open to adopting sustainable energy practices and products.

“We expected the idea to be exciting and the actual operational service to be uneventful. We were right on both counts,” said Dick Alexander, Executive Vice President of Development and Innovation at Transdev.

“This was quite a momentous day at our company in terms of innovating to serve mobility needs, and everything worked just as planned.”

Future upgrades to the shuttles include enhanced navigation for driving around road obstacles. The city also plans to integrate autonomous transportation for grocery and last-mile package deliveries. Transdev has been managing driverless shuttles in the city since January. The pilot involving autonomous buses is expected to turn into a full-service operation by 2019.

 

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