Columbus residents and visitors now have the chance to ride Ohio’s first self-driving shuttles.
The Smart Circuit shuttles began humming their way along the Scioto Mile in Downtown Columbus on Dec. 10. The low-speed, electric vehicles make stops at COSI, the National Veterans Memorial and Museum, Bicentennial Park and Smart Columbus Experience Center. The service offers free rides to the public from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
The initiative bringing self-driving shuttles to the Buckeye state is driven by Smart Columbus and Ohio Department of Transportation’s DriveOhio, in partnership with The Ohio State University. The Smart Circuit demonstration will help engineers, researchers and policymakers from this partnership inform future deployments of self-driving vehicle technology throughout the state.
Columbus won the Smart City Challenge in 2016, earning $40 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation, as well as a $10-million grant from Paul G. Allen Philanthropies. With that seed funding, Columbus was dubbed “America’s Smart City,” a designation bringing with it the challenge to reinvent mobility in the capital city and serve as a model for connected urban areas of the future.
“The Ohio State University has been integral to the design of the project and the ambition for what we are going to achieve with self-driving vehicles in this community,” said Jordan Davis, director of Smart Columbus. “Ohio State has been involved since the very, very beginning — since the grant. And we have continued to work with them as we design the research and try to identify other research opportunities with faculty for this project.”
And, as the community can look forward to riding the self-driving shuttles downtown, undergraduate students at Ohio State set their sights on the potential value of bringing smart mobility to a campus setting.
Ohio State’s Institute for Materials Research hosted a three-day INNOVATE-O-thon event in November with DriveOhio, an initiative working to advance smart mobility in Ohio. Each semester, IMR challenges undergraduates studying a variety of disciplines to work with each other, as well as faculty, industry and government representatives to a solve real-world problem.
At the most recent INNOVATE-O-thon, students were challenged to help shape DriveOhio’s technology strategy by imagining a future with self-driving shuttles on the Columbus campus of Ohio State. Students built value propositions for that project and pitched them to government representatives, faculty and other subject matter experts.