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Driverless Shuttle Planned for Downtown

Brent Warren Brent Warren Driverless Shuttle Planned for DowntownPhoto via Wiki.
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A driverless shuttle bus could be roaming Downtown streets before the end of the year if a new Smart Columbus initiative moves forward as planned.

Mark Patton, Smart Columbus Vice President at the Columbus Partnership, shared the news yesterday during a tour of the about-to-open Smart Columbus Experience Center.

“I think the next thing that we’ll probably work on is…an autonomous vehicle purchase, and we’re working on that with the City of Columbus, the new DriveOhio initiative, and OSU,” he said. “We envision it running on Civic Center Drive, connecting to the new veterans museum and to COSI, and (back to the new experience center)…our goal is to have that running some time in 2018.”

Patton added that the team recently had “nine of the leading providers in town talking about their capabilities.” They’ve been studying the different types of self-driving shuttles on the market — many of which are fairly small and resemble a boxy van more than a bus — with an eye toward releasing a request for proposals soon.

It’s not clear if the Downtown shuttle would replace the one originally planned to run in the Easton area, or if this is a new, unrelated project. A spokesperson for the Columbus Partnership said that more information about the Downtown shuttle would be released in the near future.

Patton said that the shuttle project is being led by DriveOhio, an initiative of the Ohio Department of Transportation designed to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors in the field of autonomous and connected-vehicles.

Update: DriveOhio, Smart Columbus, the City of Columbus and OSU officially announced on July 2nd that they were issuing a request for proposals (RFP) for a “technology partner” to deliver a “low-speed self-driving shuttle service around the Scioto Mile.” The RFP specifies that testing of the vehicles should begin in October with service starting in December. It also states that human operators will be present on each vehicle to educate riders and to take over the controls if necessary.

Related: Self-Driving Shuttle Bus Shows up on Campus & OSU is Looking to Buy One

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