The first autonomous school shuttle in the world will take to the roads this autumn in Babcock Ranch, Florida.
Babcock Ranch, which bills itself as the first solar-powered community in the US, is also going to be the first to trial an autonomous school shuttle on its roads.
The 12-person Easy Mile EZ10 Gen II shuttle is fully electric and, according to the new town’s transport partner, Transdev, it reacts 30 times faster than a human driver. Currently, the shuttle travels at a top speed of 12mph, but has the potential to reach speeds of 30mph once the necessary infrastructure is in place. A safety attendant will remain on board at all times and Transdev will test the autonomous shuttle with students and families before the pilot officially begins.
The 12-person Easy Mile EZ10 Gen II shuttle is fully electric and, according to Transdev, reacts 30 times faster than a human driver.
Transdev will spend over two months testing the autonomous bus on school shuttle routes. During the pilot-programme, Transdev will offer the service to Babcock Neighborhood School (BNS) students, and evaluate rider behaviour and demand. Eventually, students and parents will be able to book on-demand, door-to-door school shuttles based on their individual needs.
Babcock Ranch and Transdev have been offering an autonomous shuttle service since the planned community opened in January, as part of an overall strategy to reduce reliance on private cars.
Dick Alexander, Executive Vice President of Mobility Innovation at Transdev, commented: "Imagine how excited these students will be the first time that yellow school shuttle pulls up outside their house. What an incredible moment for them.
"Not only are we providing an important mobility option for these children, but what an opportunity for them to see the amazing power of science, technology, engineering and math that help this shuttle run safely and efficiently. The whole experience is something we hope they will never forget."
Syd Kitson, CEO of Kitson & Partners, the developers behind Babcock Ranch, added: "It makes me wish I were a kid again. This is a sign of progress and a sincere testament to a shared commitment to sustainable living. For many of the kids moving in and living here, autonomous school shuttles will be the only school transit they ever know. I’m definitely jealous of them and so proud of this concept."
The companies note that walking and biking will always be encouraged as a priority but the shuttle will be a viable option during bad weather or for students who live further from school.