Photos courtesy LEAP
Columbus, Ohio’s Mayor Andrew J. Ginther, together with local civic leaders, unveiled the Linden LEAP — 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 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, 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.
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 and other key community locations. The 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 CMAX line to access jobs and services.
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.