Self-Driving Shuttle Starts Service In Linden This Month

Jan 9, 2020

Columbus' Linden neighborhood is about to launch a residential, automated shuttle service which officials say is the first program of its kind in the country.

Originally scheduled to start service last fall, the 12-person, self-driving shuttle will travel a 2.8-mile circuit in the neighborhood that city leaders want to revitalize starting later this month.

They won't be entirely humanless, though: like the Scioto Mile shuttle loop that launched in 2018, operators will remain on board to oversee the technology and take over if needed.

The residential service will connect the Linden Transit Center to neighborhood hubs, including St. Stephen's Community House and the Douglas Recreation Center.

Luke Stedke, DriveOhio's managing director of communications, says the Linden project can play a role in the future use of driverless vehicles.

"The development of technology and where we are in the spectrum, we're at the beginning of it. So we talk about testing and deploying and gathering data and learning lessons to further the process," says Stedke.

DriveOhio is the state agency that helps streamline automated vehicle programs. Stedke says each program brings take the state one step further in the development of the infrastructure.

"It's really important that we take every opportunity to do this right, do this in a systematic way, and the lessons that we learn build with each deployment," Stedke says.

The Linden project, which is part of the Smart Columbus transportation grant program, will run for 12 months. Transportation workers have protested the autonomous shuttles, raising concerns about safety and potential job losses.

The Linden shuttle marks a big shift from Smart Columbus’ original 2016 idea, which proposed linking Linden to Easton Towne Center. That proposal helped the city win a $40 million national grant.

Columbus' application for the Smart City project, and subsequent Smart Columbus literature, touted a fixed route of autonomous vehicles serving residential areas around Easton Town Center and John Glenn Airport.

After winning the nod from the Department of Transportation, though, the city turned away from shuttles at Easton because shuttles couldn’t keep up with traffic and cross busy streets quickly enough.