‘Slight deviation’ led to sudden stop of Linden self-driving shuttle


By Mark Ferenchik - The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)



Smart Columbus said it has determined that a self-driving shuttle in Linden suddenly stopped this year because of a “slight deviation” in the automated steering of the vehicle.

The shuttle was traveling at 7.1 mph on Feb. 20 when it quickly stopped, throwing a passenger to the floor. The passenger was treated and released from Ohio State University East Hospital and released.

Smart Columbus parked the two 12-passenger Linden LEAP shuttles on Feb. 24. They began running on Feb. 5.

Meanwhile, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration outlined its conditions to lift the Feb. 25 suspension of all 16 battery-powered EasyMile shuttles operating in 10 states after finishing a safety evaluation. EasyMile built the Linden shuttles.

EasyMile said it plans to install seat belts. And it plans to add signs and make announcements that sudden stops can happen.

Smart Columbus spokeswoman Alyssa Chenault said Smart Columbus would also require rubber around the seats and additional operator training. An operator is always on board to monitor the shuttle.

After federal approval, Smart Columbus would consider federal and state guidelines regarding the coronavirus before starting the free service again, she said.

The Transport Workers Union of America, which represents Central Ohio Transit Authority drivers, has called the technology dangerous.

In May 2019, the Columbus City Council approved a $1.1 million contract with EasyMile for the automated vehicle shuttle service.

EmpowerBus is the local operator for Smart Columbus.

The shuttle pilot program, is to end in February. It is the result of Columbus winning the Smart City Challenge in 2016. That brought in a $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and a $10 million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.

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By Mark Ferenchik

The Columbus Dispatch (TNS)

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