We will educate our community on autonomous vehicle technology and use self-driving shuttles to connect residents to jobs and community resources to help them live their best lives.
Use self-driving shuttles to close transportation gaps to reaching public transportation, affordable housing, healthy food, childcare, recreation and education.
Since the writing of the Smart City Challenge application, we have aspired to use self-driving vehicle technology to help close gaps in transportation access in our city. Initially, we explored the prospect of deploying a self-driving shuttle in the Easton area. Surveys of potential riders and industry research revealed that the technology available today is not quite ready to serve the use case we originally envisioned.
So Smart Columbus partnered with DriveOhio, a division of the Ohio Department of Transportation, to learn more about what autonomous vehicle technology is capable of today. Together, we launched Smart Circuit, Ohio’s first self-driving shuttle, in December 2018. Smart Circuit circles the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus, providing free rides to the Center of Science and Industry (COSI), the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Bicentennial Park and the Smart Columbus Experience Center.
Smart Circuit offers residents and visitors a hands-on educational experience with self-driving technology. Self-driving electric vehicles deployed by May Mobility service the 1.5-mile route, with shuttles running daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The vehicles combine sensors and intelligent software to help them understand where they are and when to accelerate or stop for something in their path. An operator rides aboard each vehicle to oversee the technology.
Residents are encouraged to ride Smart Circuit to experience self-driving vehicle technology firsthand, to start to envision how autonomous vehicle technology may improve our lives in the future. Engineers, researchers and policymakers from Smart Columbus, DriveOhio and The Ohio State University will also use the demonstration to inform future deployments of self-driving vehicle technology in Ohio, including Smart Columbus’ second self-driving shuttle route.
During community research, the Smart Columbus team heard Linden residents voice the need to better connect to key community assets such as St. Stephens Community House and the Linden Transit Center. Smart Columbus researched the practical and technical feasibility of four routes linking community resources. Ultimately, we chose a route that will help to solve “first-mile / last-mile” mobility challenges in the Linden neighborhood by providing free rides between St. Stephens Community House, Douglas Community Recreation Center, Rosewind Resident Council and Linden Transit Center. Together, these locations provide residents with resources they need to live their best lives, including public transportation, affordable housing, healthy food, childcare, recreation and more.
Smart Columbus has selected EasyMile as its service provider for the Linden route, and now system buildout is underway. The route will use EasyMile’s EZ10 vehicle, a 15-passenger, ADA-accessible, electric, self-driving shuttle that is today the most deployed autonomous shuttle in the world. As on Smart Circuit, trained operators will sit on board the shuttles at all times to oversee their operation. These operators will also engage with passengers and provide mobility assistance to those who need it.
The schedule is tentatively expected to run from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily with stop timings that compliment COTA bus services. It’s estimated that the shuttles could serve up to 90 people per hour and the route is anticipated to take 20 minutes to complete. The self-driving shuttle will launch in November 2019 and will be free to ride.
Partners on these projects include DriveOhio, The Ohio State University, St. Stephen's Community House, City of Columbus Department of Recreation and Parks, Columbus Metropolitan Housing Authority, and Central Ohio Transit Authority.