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Columbus self-driving shuttle pilot program halted after 3 weeks following sudden stop

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A passenger falling aboard a self-driving shuttle as part of a pilot program in Columbus has put the project on hold less than three weeks after it began.

The daily shuttle service in the Linden neighborhood in Columbus, Ohio, was halted after one of the pilot’s vehicles made a sudden stop around noon Thursday, Feb. 20. One passenger fell from her seat to the floor of the shuttle as a result.

The shuttle — coined the LEAP, or Linden Empowers All People — is a program of Smart Columbus, the city of Columbus’ smart mobility initiative.

It is unclear how fast the shuttle was going before the stop or why it made a sudden stop.

Smart Columbus spokeswoman Alyssa Chenault and EasyMile, the French shuttle manufacturer, did not immediately respond to Automotive News’ request for comment.

According to local reports, the passenger requested medical attention after the fall, and medics took her to Ohio State University Hospital East with minor injuries. No further details about the injuries the woman sustained have been released.

The shuttle service was first approved by the Columbus City Council in May 2019 as part of a $1.1 million contract with EasyMile.

The two, all-electric, 12-person EasyMile EZ10 shuttles are funded through a $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation Smart City Challenge grant that Smart Columbus received in 2016.

The service started this month and was expected to run through February 2021. A human operator was slated to accompany each ride. The pilot tracked a 2.9-mile route with four stops. The shuttles can go up to 25 mph.

EasyMile, an autonomous transportation company, has a pilot program through North Carolina State University and the N.C. Department of Transportation and is also part of a larger partnership among the University of Florida’s Transportation Institute, the Florida Department of Transportation and the city of Gainesville.

EasyMile also works with supplier Continental and others.

According to local reports, Smart Columbus notified the U.S. Transportation Department and NHTSA about the incident, and EasyMile was expected to investigate this week.

The news is the latest in mobility fumbles across the country, as micromobility offerings such as e-scooters and more are struggling to gain traction in the industry.

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