Columbus, Ohio is testing an autonomous shuttle from May Mobility. Photo: DriveOhio

Columbus, Ohio is testing an autonomous shuttle from May Mobility. Photo: DriveOhio

Ohio’s first self-driving shuttles hit the streets in downtown Columbus in mid-November, kicking off the first phase of a project designed to test, operate and evaluate self-driving vehicles. The low-speed transportation shuttles are operated by May Mobility, a self-driving vehicle startup, which commenced testing and route mapping around the Scioto Mile this week.

The all-electric vehicles, which have a top speed of 25 miles per hour, are outfitted with sensors, cameras and intelligent software to map the route and monitor the environment. The shuttles are expected to begin picking up passengers in December once testing and mapping is complete. As many as 10 shuttles will service destinations along the Scioto Mile, a parkland area in downtown Columbus, including the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), the Smart Columbus Experience Center, Bicentennial Park and the new National Veterans Memorial and Museum.

In 2016, Columbus won the Smart City Challenge, a designation that earned the city a $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant and a $10 million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies.

This project is a direct result of this achievement and presents an opportunity to prove the promises of this new technology while expanding Columbus’ transportation ecosystem.

This test, which will also help develop guidelines to inform the future deployment of self-driving technologies throughout Ohio and the rest of the country, is the first of a three-phased deployment that will eventually include shuttles serving multiple routes.

In addition to advanced technology specifically designed to move passengers, the shuttles also feature panoramic glass roofs, which allows riders to enjoy views of the city skyline. Each shuttle will be staffed by an operator, who will oversee the vehicle, act as a guide and assist passengers along the route. The operator, onboard all shuttles at all times throughout this and other projects, will be able to take control of the vehicle if necessary.

“This is an important project for Columbus, but this pilot is a big step in our statewide plan,” said Jim Barna, executive director of DriveOhio. “We want to enable other local governments throughout the state to safely test, operate and evaluate these self-driving shuttles so they can help their constituents move more easily from place to place.”

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