Linden is set to make history next month as Smart Columbus launches a self-driving shuttle in South Linden, the first public self-driving shuttle operating daily in a neighborhood setting in the country! The shuttle route, known as the Linden LEAP (Linden Empowers All People), will provide free rides to anyone wishing to travel between St. Stephens Community House, Douglas Recreation Center, Rosewind Resident Council Building and the Linden Transit Center.
The LEAP was created to help South Linden residents get to and from important destinations where there aren’t any bus stops. The City and Smart Columbus worked with Linden residents and stakeholders to identify the stops, which provide access to healthy food, childcare, healthcare, affordable housing, recreation, COTA’s CMAX line and more.
Is it free to ride and how often do the shuttles come?
Yes, the shuttle is free to all and will pick up passengers at each stop every 12 minutes. Safety is our top priority. We’re erring on the side of caution and suspending service of the LEAP during school arrival and release times. The tentative service schedule is 6 AM to 8 AM, 9:30 AM to 3 PM, and 4:30 PM to 8 PM daily. The shuttles can accommodate strollers and wheelchairs and can carry up to 12 passengers.
How do the self-driving vehicles work?
The shuttles use multiple layers of redundant technologies in order to maximize the safety of passengers and road users. These technologies include sensors, LiDAR, cameras, GPS, odometry, and inertial measurement units, which ensure the vehicle follows the route and avoids obstacles. A trained operator will always be on board to oversee the technology and to take over control of the vehicle, if needed. Operators are also available to answer passenger questions about the technology and to assist passengers. The shuttle will never go faster than 15 MPH and will typically travel around 12 MPH.
When will it launch?
The shuttle is part of a one-year pilot program funded by the Smart City Challenge grant awarded to the City of Columbus by the US Department of Transportation. Shuttle testing along the route without passengers will begin on a closed course in St. Stephens Community House’s parking lot the week of December 16th. Shuttle testing on public roads along the route without passengers will start in early January. The shuttle is anticipated to launch to the public in late January. The whole community will be invited to attend the launch event and to take the first rides aboard the shuttle.
EmpowerBus, the local mobility company in charge of operating the shuttles, is actively looking to hire 8 people, 4 full-time employees, and 4 part-time employees. Positions start at $15 an hour. Full-time employees will receive benefits. Stay tuned for open interview hours in the New Year. Interested individuals can submit their application at https://www.empowerbus.com/careers by selecting “Autonomous Operator” under position type.
As you take rides on the shuttle, your real-time feedback will help inform other uses of this exciting technology in Ohio, and across the nation. Stay tuned for more to come!