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Testing Of Self-Driving School Bus Halted In Florida, USA

French utility Veolia agreed to sell its 30 percent stake in Transdev to Germany's Rethmann Group.

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FILE - The headquarters of French international public transport company Transdev is seen in Issy-les-Moulineaux. VOA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday said it had ordered Transdev North America to immediately stop transporting schoolchildren in Florida in a driverless shuttle as the testing could be putting them at “inappropriate” risk.

The auto safety agency known as NHTSA said in an order issued late Friday that Transdev’s use of its EZ10 Generation II driverless shuttle in the Babcock Ranch community in southwest Florida was “unlawful and in violation of the company’s temporary importation authorization.”

“Innovation must not come at the risk of public safety,” said Deputy NHTSA Administrator Heidi King in a statement.

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Uber began testing self-driving cars in Pittsburgh and is now rolling out the service in San Francisco. (Uber), VOA

“Using a non-compliant test vehicle to transport children is irresponsible, inappropriate, and in direct violation of the terms of Transdev’s approved test project.”

In March, NHTSA granted Transdev permission to temporarily import the driverless shuttle for testing and demonstration purposes, but not as a school bus.

The agency said the company had agreed to halt the tests. A spokeswoman for Transdev did not respond to several requests for comment Monday.

Transdev North America is a unit of Transdev, which is controlled by France state-owned investment fund Caisse des Depots et Consignations.

The company in August issued a news release saying it would “operate school shuttle service starting this fall with an autonomous vehicle, the first in the world.”

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Self Driving Car, Google

Transdev said the 12-person shuttle bus would operate from a designated pickup area with a safety attendant on board, would travel at a top speed of 8 miles per hour (13 kph), with the potential to reach speeds of 30 mph (48 kph) once additional infrastructure was completed.

There are numerous low-speed self-driving shuttles being tested in cities around the United States with many others planned.

NHTSA previously said it was moving ahead with plans to revise safety rules that bar fully self-driving cars from the roads without equipment such as steering wheels, pedals and mirrors as the agency works to advance driverless vehicles. The agency has said it opposes proposals to require ‘pre-approving’ self-driving technologies before they are tested.

Also Read: LG Signs Deal For Developing Self-Driving Modules For Mobile Robots

NHTSA told Transdev that failure to take appropriate action could result in fines, the voiding of the temporary importation authorization or the exportation of the vehicle.

Earlier this month, French utility Veolia agreed to sell its 30 percent stake in Transdev to Germany’s Rethmann Group. (VOA)

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International Conference On Border Security By U.S. State Department Cancelled Due To Shutdown

Trump is demanding $5.7 billion to build a wall along part of the U.S.-Mexico border that he says is crucial for U.S. national security.

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People enter the State Department building in Washington, Jan. 26, 2017. VOA

An international conference on border security that was to be hosted by the State Department has been canceled, due to the partial shutdown of the U.S. government over border security.

 

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A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks at one of border wall prototypes in San Diego, June 28, 2018. VOA

 

The State Department said 250 experts on export control and border security from 85 countries were expected to participate in the conference scheduled for mid-February in Edinburgh, Scotland.

CNN was the first to report that the director of the State Department’s Office of Export Control Cooperation, Kathryn Insley, sent a letter Jan. 16 to at least 55 U.S. embassies and missions worldwide, asking them to let officials in their countries know the conference has been called off.

The letter said the decision was made because of the “uncertainty associated with the continuing partial U.S. federal government shutdown.” Insley’s letter stated officials “are working to identify alternative dates” and would be in contact with participants “as soon as we are operational again.”

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President Donald Trump reviews border wall prototypes in San Diego, March 13, 2018. VOA

“In light of the very limited funding available during the lapse in appropriations, the Department will exercise judicious use of limited, remaining resources,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill newspaper. “Travel, hiring, contracting, public affairs, and other activities will continue to operate in a constrained manner.”

Also Read: The Great U.S. Government Shutdown

The partial government shutdown has extended into its 32nd day, affecting more than 800,000 federal workers across the country.

Border security is at the center of the fight between U.S. President Donald Trump and the Democrats that has paralyzed a quarter of the federal government.

Trump is demanding $5.7 billion to build a wall along part of the U.S.-Mexico border that he says is crucial for U.S. national security. The Democrats have refused his demand, creating a stalemate. (VOA)