Slight deviation in steering caused February sudden stop incident of Linden LEAP shuttle

May 19, 2020
Smart Columbus and partners will be adding safety enhancements such as seat belts and additional passenger communication prior to the shuttle’s return to operation.

A sudden stop of an autonomous vehicle in Ohio on Feb. 20 was caused by a slight deviation in the steering of the vehicle, according to Smart Columbus, which operates the shuttle. 

The Linden LEAP vehicle was traveling at 7.1 miles per hour at the time of the sudden stop and caused a passenger to fall to the floor. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suspended the Linden LEAP and several other EasyMile autonomous shuttles because of the incident. EasyMile received clearance to restart autonomous shuttle operations in the United States last week.

Smart Columbus explains sudden stops in autonomous vehicles can be caused by many factors, including those that are not apparent to the eye, such as a small or unseen object in the vehicle’s path, weight distribution or road conditions.

While Smart Columbus is working with its partners to make adjustments to reduce sudden stops, they note these incidents cannot be eliminated entirely. However, additional safety enhancements that include seatbelts and passenger instruction will be implemented on the shuttles.

“With these enhancements, every passenger can be confident we’ve done everything in our power to ensure their ride is safe,” said Smart Columbus.

Even with the added safety precautions, Smart Columbus and the Linden LEAP project face another challenge: COVID-19. The Linden LEAP’s local operator, EmpowerBus, ceased business operations because of COVID-19 impacts and a new local operator will need to be brought onboard before Linden LEAP shuttles return to service.

“Smart Columbus will follow guidelines set forth by the state and city regarding COVID-19 and those impacts on the Linden LEAP’s return to service. 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. The safety of our passengers and the public will continue to be our top priority,” said Smart Columbus.

About the Author

Mischa Wanek-Libman | Group Editorial Director

Mischa Wanek-Libman serves as editor in chief of Mass Transit magazine and group editorial director of the Infrastructure and Aviation Group at Endeavor Business Media. She is responsible for developing and maintaining the editorial direction of the group and is based in the western suburbs of Chicago.

Wanek-Libman has spent more than 20 years covering transportation issues including construction projects and engineering challenges for various commuter railroads and transit agencies. She has been recognized for editorial excellence through her individual work, as well as for collaborative content. 

She is an active member of the American Public Transportation Association's Marketing and Communications Committee and serves as a Board Observer on the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association (NRC) Board of Directors.  

She is a graduate of Drake University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Journalism and Mass Communication with a major in magazine journalism and a minor in business management.