06 Feb 2020, USA – Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, together with Columbus City Councilmember Shayla Favor and other local civic leaders, today unveiled the Linden LEAP (EasyMile EZ10) – the nation’s first public self-driving shuttle in a residential area – in the South Linden area of Columbus. LEAP, which stands for Linden Empowers All People, will service destinations around South Linden from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, with stops in service during school arrival and dismissal times.
“Bringing smart technology and mobility into our neighborhoods is an important tool for sharing success and expanding opportunity,” said Ginther. “The launch of the Linden LEAP will help us guide future innovations in the community and beyond, using self-driving technology to help reduce barriers to community resources.”
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.
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.”
A human operator, called a customer service ambassador, rides aboard each vehicle with access to driving controls at all times. Local mobility startup EmpowerBus employs all shuttle operators.
“As a start-up focused on access and equity, being able to provide innovative mobility to the Linden community and its neighbors is truly an honor,” said Aslyne Rodriguez, CEO of EmpowerBus. “Advancement of technology should enhance the lives of all communities. Being able to provide the team that delivers that service, who call Linden home or who once grew up there, is next-level connection to our mission and vision.”
“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.”
The Linden LEAP, a one-year pilot program funded by Columbus’ win of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge, will pick-up and drop-off passengers at the Linden Transit Center, Rosewind Estates Community Center, Douglas Community Recreation Center and St. Stephen’s Community House. These locations provide residents with resources that include affordable housing, healthy food, childcare, healthcare centers, recreation and more. 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 LEAP brings us one step closer to addressing the mobility challenges that many of our residents face each day,” said Marilyn Mehaffie, CEO of St. Stephen’s Community House. “St. Stephen’s is excited to participate in this project, and we are committed to working with our local leaders to find innovative mobility solutions for the residents of Linden.”
The self-driving Linden LEAP shuttles operate using a suite of 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. Ambassadors provide riders with information about the route and technology, and can take control of the vehicle at any time. The shuttle is free to ride.
“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.”
Photo credit: SMART Columbus