Linden LEAP drives around Columbus

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The USA’s first public self-driving shuttle in a residential area, the Linden LEAP, has taken to the streets of South Linden in Columbus, Ohio.

Two electric vehicles, serviced by autonomous mobility provider EasyMile, will serve the 2.9-mile route with shuttles arriving at four stops about every 12 minutes.

They have a maximum speed of 25mph (40km/h), are wheelchair accessible and can accommodate up to 12 passengers at a time.

The LEAP has a suite of sensors that deliver a 360° view around the vehicle to help it understand the location, which direction to steer, and when to slow, 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.

A human operator rides with each vehicle with access to driving controls at all time, with local mobility startup EmpowerBus employing the shuttle operators.

Sharad Agarwal, senior vice president of EasyMile in North America, said, “EasyMile has deployed our vehicles and technology around the world, but Columbus is the first location where our autonomous software is powering a fleet-based system in a residential neighborhood. This represents the next revolution in autonomous mobility, and we are thrilled Columbus can showcase this to communities everywhere.”

The service was unveiled by Columbus mayor Andrew Ginther together with Columbus City Council member Shayla Favor and other local civic leaders.

Favor said, “The Linden LEAP is a pilot program like no other in the nation. For the first time, we are inviting the public to use self-driving technology on public roads in a residential neighborhood. Linden is at the forefront of shaping smart mobility in the USA.”

The Linden LEAP, which stands for Linden Empowers All People, is a one-year pilot program funded by Columbus’s win of the US Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge.

It operates from 6:00am to 8:00pm, with stops in service during school arrival and dismissal times.

The service picks up and drops off passengers at the Linden Transit Center, Rosewind Estates Community Center, Douglas Community Recreation Center and St Stephen’s Community House.

Lawrence Calloway, chair of the South Linden Area Commission, said, “Linden residents played a very important role in working with City leaders to identify the resources and access points that are frequently serviced by those in the area. We’re proud to say that Linden is making history as being home to the first public self-driving shuttle in a residential area.”

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