The City of Columbus, Ohio, has launched the nation’s first public self-driving shuttle in a residential area. Linden LEAP will service destinations around the Linden area of the city from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with stops in service during school arrival and dismissal times.
Two all-electric vehicles, serviced by autonomous mobility provider EasyMile, will service the 2.9-mile route, with shuttles arriving at each of four stops approximately every 12 minutes. The vehicles, which have a maximum speed of 25 MPH, are wheelchair accessible, and can accommodate up to 12 passengers at a time.
A human operator rides aboard each vehicle and has access to driving controls at all times. Local mobility startup EmpowerBus employs all shuttle operators.
The Linden LEAP is a one-year pilot program funded by Columbus’ win of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge. Its stops are designed to provide residents with access to resources that include affordable housing, healthy food, childcare, healthcare centers, and recreation. It also connects residents who live in the area to the Central Ohio Transit Authority’s (COTA) CMAX line to access jobs and services.
The self-driving Linden LEAP shuttles operate using sensors that deliver a 360-degree view around the vehicle. The sensors and intelligent software help the vehicle understand where it is; in which direction to steer; and when to slow down, accelerate, or stop for something in its path. Mapping allows the vehicle to know every inch of its route and navigate through various traffic conditions. The shuttle is free to ride.