In what may be the first of its kind in America, the Ohio city of Columbus is launching a daily self-driving shuttle service. Called the Linden LEAP, two autonomous vehicles will transport passengers from the northeast neighborhood of Linden to the CMAX rapid bus transit line. They will also take customers to and from local community, childcare, and social centers. Other cities in the US have tested autonomous shuttles but Columbus is the first to fully integrate it into the public transit network.
The all-electric vehicles will service a 2.9-mile route with shuttles arriving at each of four stops approximately every 12 minutes. Up to 12 passengers can ride at a time with access provided for wheelchairs and strollers. The autonomous shuttles can travel up to 25 mph and operate in most types of weather. To ensure safety and answer any questions, a ‘customer service ambassador’ will be onboard at all times.
Shuttles Made by EasyMile
To help navigate the roads and avoid anything that might get in their way, the vehicles include onboard LiDAR sensors, 360-degree cameras, and GPS. The two shuttles were made by EasyMile. The French company has been testing and deploying their vehicles all around the globe.
Sharad Agarwal, senior vice president of EasyMile in North America stated, “EasyMile has deployed our vehicles and technology around the world, but Columbus is the first location where our autonomous software is powering a fleet-based system in a residential neighborhood. This represents the next revolution in autonomous mobility, and we are thrilled Columbus can showcase this to communities everywhere.”
Columbus Self-Driving Shuttles to Operate Every Day
The shuttles will operate seven days a week from 6 AM to 8 PM. To comply with a federal mandate and make sure they don’t interfere during peak school drop off and pick up times, the service will stop between 8-9:30 AM and again between 2-3:30 PM on weekdays. Rides are free to all passengers 12 years old and up.
Back in 2016, Columbus won the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. They were awarded $40 million to help transform their transportation system. The city’s pitch focused on changing the public transport system to better serve disadvantaged residents.
“Linden residents played a very important role in working with City leaders to identify the resources and access points that are frequently serviced by those in the area,” said Lawrence Calloway Jr., chair of the South Linden Area Commission. “We’re proud to say that Linden is making history as being home to the first public self-driving shuttle in a residential area – all eyes are on Linden.”
Linden Leap to Cost About $1 Million
The total cost of the Linden LEAP project is expected to be a little over one million dollars. During the pilot, which is planned to last one year, data and customer feedback will be collected which will determine future steps.
“The Linden LEAP is a pilot program like no other in the nation,” said Columbus City Councilmember Shayla Favor. “For the first time, we are inviting the public to use self-driving technology on public roads in a residential neighborhood. Linden is at the forefront of shaping smart mobility in the United States.”