Linden Shuttle Cleared to Operate, But No Date Set for Return
The EasyMile shuttles that were barred from operating nationwide after an incident in Linden last February are now cleared to run again, but don’t expect to see the self-driving vehicles back on local streets any time soon.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced late last week that they had approved the company’s return-to-service plan for the vehicles.
Smart Columbus also completed its own safety review of the incident, in which a woman fell to the floor after the shuttle stopped suddenly.
EasyMile posted a statement on its website, saying that – based on NHTSA recommendations – it now plans to add seat belts to the shuttles and to run audio announcements “to increase awareness that sudden stops can happen for safety.”
Alyssa Chenault, Communications Project Manager for Smart Columbus, said in a statement that the incident on February 20 was “triggered by a slight deviation in the steering of the shuttle. Other factors, such as small or unseen objects in the vehicle’s path, weight distribution, or road conditions also can cause the vehicle to brake.”
“Smart Columbus is working with our partners to make adjustments that would reduce – but not entirely prevent – sudden stops,” she added. “With these enhancements, every passenger can be confident we’ve done everything in our power to ensure their ride is safe.”
It remains unclear, however, when the two Linden shuttles will resume operations in the neighborhood.
Riders are being encouraged to check lindenleap.com for service updates, but as of May 19 the website says only that Smart Columbus plans to follow state and city guidelines regarding COVID-19, and that “we will be regularly assessing based on the current state of affairs when it is prudent to return to service and continue piloting self-driving technology in a neighborhood to connect Linden residents to needed community resources.”