November 18th, 2020
One of Smart Columbus’ goals is to create opportunity for Columbus residents by providing better access to jobs and services while improving the overall safety and efficiency of the transportation network. Columbus intends to define what it means to be a “Smart City” and serve as a model for other cities wishing to fully integrate innovative technologies. This includes testing and deploying connected and autonomous vehicles into the transportation network.
Before self-driving shuttles could be a reality, Smart Columbus had to ensure that the shuttles would operate safely. Columbus deployed Ohio’s first self-driving vehicle in December 2018 through an initiative led by a coalition of partners, including the Ohio Department of Transportation’s DriveOhio, Smart Columbus and The Ohio State University.
The shuttles began mapping their route along Columbus’ Scioto Mile in the fall of 2018 and Smart Circuit, opened to passengers in December 2018.
The shuttles offer residents and visitors a hands-on educational experience with self-driving technology. Engineers, researchers and policymakers from Smart Columbus, DriveOhio and The Ohio State University will use the demonstration to inform future deployments of self-driving vehicle technology in Ohio, including a route planned for a Columbus neighborhood, funded by the U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant. The deployment will also help to guide the development of safety plans, procedures and other guidelines that will inform future deployments of self-driving technology throughout Ohio and in the rest of the country.
About the shuttle
May Mobility, a startup from Ann Arbor, Michigan, was selected to deploy, operate and maintain a low-speed self-driving shuttle service after responding to a Request for Proposals that was issued in July 2018.
May Mobility is operating six identical, electric vehicles that can hold up to five passengers and an operator. The shuttles have a maximum speed of 25 miles per hour and are equipped with a powerful array of sensors and intelligent software. Passengers have access to an immersive 49-inch digital display that provides system and route information. The vehicles have a panoramic glass roof and passengers sit in a four seat “campfire” configuration in the rear of the vehicle.
An operator is always on board to oversee the operation of the vehicle and to ensure each rider has the best experience. The operator will have the ability to take control of the vehicle at any time, if necessary.
Creating safety standards
Before the Smart Circuit could open to the public, Smart Columbus convened May Mobility, DriveOhio, Columbus Public Safety, including Police and Fire, and other stakeholders to create safety plans and standard operating procedures that would guide the day-to-day operation of the vehicles and determine protocols in the event of an emergency.
We conducted a tabletop exercise, a discussion-based session where stakeholders met in person to discuss their roles during operation and their responses to a particular situations. The exercise allowed dialogue between May Mobility, other transportation providers, city safety personnel and project managers that allowed Smart Columbus to test the standard operating procedures and ensure that all stakeholders have well thought-out response plans to everyday situations and emergency scenarios.
That exercise, along with other controlled factory and field testing also contributed to the overall safety procedures that were developed. Some of those safety plans include:
Standard Operating Procedures
The purpose of the standard operating procedures is to describe the processes for operational situations Smart Circuit is likely to encounter during normal operations and in non-normal situations.
Standard operating procedures are project-specific, step-by-step instructions agreed upon by a project team to help stakeholders complete routine, and at times complex, operations in a consistent and agreed-upon manner. The document ensures that all affected parties are aware of their roles, obligations and responsibilities, and that tasks are completed efficiently and safely, while reducing the risk of miscommunication and failure to comply with all applicable laws, regulations or agreements.
First Responder Quick Sheet /Video
A quick video and one-pager were created for first responders to help them identify a May Mobility shuttle, understand the technology and mechanics of the equipment on board, and address an emergency situation, should one occur. Photos are included to make sure that first responders can move quickly in the case there is a need to stop the shuttle or contact the May Mobility team for support. Considerations for the shuttle’s lithium ion battery and other safety features are also included.
Safety Management Plan
Smart Columbus has developed a program-wide Safety Management Plan and all vendors contribute to the final plan. The plan includes a table that outlines identified risks that could occur with the shuttle, the description or impact of that risk and a strategy to resolve the issue. May Mobility identified its own risks to help inform the program’s plan.
Ultimately, research from the initial Smart Circuit deployment will be used to enhance the mobility of residents and visitors. It will also evaluate the abilities of this technology to operate on public roadways in Ohio and will help the project partners better understand the infrastructure required to implement and support the safe operation of this technology.
Read the shuttle RFP, Standard Operating Procedures, First Responder Quicksheet & Video, Safety Management Plan below.
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