Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther and other local leaders on Wednesday celebrated the launch of electric self-driving shuttles in the Linden neighborhood. It's the second such program in Columbus, but the first in a residential area.
A one-year pilot program calls for the shuttles to run a three-mile route with four stops, including the Linden Transit Center and St. Stephen's Community House. Each will have an operator onboard to oversee the technology and take over if needed.
“The LEAP will make history as the nation’s first self-driving shuttle operating in a neighborhood daily,” Ginther said at the event.
LEAP stand for "Linden Empowers All People." During the pilot year, the vehicles are free to ride and can seat up to 12 passengers.
“With this resource, residents in Linden will be able to overcome mobility barriers and the time constraints it takes to access health and wellness, continuing education, employment opportunities, food sources and getting to work on time,” said Lawrence Calloway Jr., chair of the South Linden Area Commission.
The shuttle is funded through a $40 million Smart Columbus transportation grant the city won in 2016. Smart Columbus originally planned to use self-driving shuttles between Linden and Easton Town Center, but they were too slow to keep up with traffic.
“Engineers, researchers and policymakers will use the information gathered from the pilot program to inform future projects of self-driving technology, locally, in the state of Ohio and around the nation,” said Columbus City Council member Shalya Favor.
Columbus opened its first self-driving shuttle route along the Scioto Mile in December 2018. The price tag for that program was $555,000.