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Don’t Let the Robot Drive the Bus!

If you’re a parent, there’s a good chance that you read “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus” to your child when they were young. The ATU is hoping that Members of Congress are carefully reading our Union’s latest common sense legislative proposal, “Don’t Let the Robot Drive the Bus.”

All across the country, there are dozens of autonomous vehicle (AV) bus projects on the road or in the planning process. In Nevada, the local transit system, where our Local 1637-Las Vegas, NV, members work, is testing an automated circulator shuttle in the Las Vegas Medical District. The RTD in Denver, CO, that employs our Local 1001 members, recently tested an automated shuttle to connect a commuter rail station to nearby areas. In East Lansing, MI, where our Local 1039 members work, Michigan State University is testing a full-size automated bus on a seven-mile route, and the bus began providing service to students, staff, and faculty last year.

Many states have passed bills giving the green light to autonomous vehicles, including buses. Now, the U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would make the rules the same everywhere. 

Our Union’s simple message to the U.S. Congress is very clear: “Please keep human beings in the driver’s seat of our transit and school buses!”  We go a step further by urging Congress to prohibit autonomous vehicles from being operated in transit or school bus transportation.

Our Union makes four key points in the proposal.


AV Technology is Not Ready for Prime Time

First, AV technology is not proven, the buses are not safe, and they will likely never be ready for prime time.

Secondly, with the level of crime on transit buses nowadays, this is an extremely risky time to take our members, who do a lot more than just drive the vehicle, off the bus. On school buses, drivers are of course key to our children’s safety.

Third, our bus operator members, the eyes and ears of our communities, routinely perform heroic acts that impact all of us, like calling 911 about the existence of house fires, talking suicidal people off of bridges, and saving toddlers from being hit by cars in busy intersections. Taking potential heroes off the bus will result in tragedies that could have been averted.

Finally, driving for a living is one of the most common jobs for high school educated people in this country. The social cost of eliminating their jobs is so high that it’s not sustainable. The greater good is protecting our citizens.

Our members have been driving Americans of all ages safely to their destinations since 1892. AV buses are an immediate threat to our members’ unbreakable bond with the traveling public. As Congress considers legislation authorizing autonomous vehicles, transit and school buses should be off the table. We move precious cargo and do it with professionalism, pride, and an unmatched personal touch.