Primarily funded by the USDOT’s Smart City Challenge, the Smart Columbus Program is a collection of eight transportation, mobility and data studies aimed at improving access to jobs, enhancing tourism, stimulating the economy, connecting residents to safe and reliable transportation, and supporting efficient and sustainable movement of people and goods throughout Columbus. As part of the Smart Columbus Program, two Connected Electric Automated Vehicle (CEAV) deployments of shuttles equipped with a suite of LiDAR sensors, 360-degree cameras, and GPS to achieve SAE J3016 Level 5 (Full Driving Automation) were demonstrated. The goal of the study was to aid travelers by improving access to downtown attractions and to provide better connection between existing transit routes and jobs and businesses.
- The first CEAV deployment (Smart Circuit) was located along the Scioto Mile in downtown Columbus which served various attractions and cultural resources. The operation of the shuttles started from December 2018 until September 2019, seven days a week from 6am to 10pm. Around 16,062 passengers (59 riders per day) took the Smart Circuit shuttle. The six shuttles drove 19,118 miles during the demonstration.
- The second CEAV deployment (Linden Leap) served first and last mile connection to transit in Linden, Columbus. The Linden Leap automated shuttle was announced and distributed to 3,681 residents. The service launched in February 2020 and operated for two weeks, in which 50 passengers took rides. Following the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Linden Leap transformed its mission to be a food pantry delivery service, delivering food boxes from St. Stephen to Rosewind, a large public housing development in the city of Columbus. During the demonstration period from July 2020 to April 2021, the shuttle service delivered 100 boxes of food per week.
Approximately 278 riders completed surveys reporting their experience riding the shuttle for the Smart Circuit CEAV deployment. For the food pantry delivery during the Linden Leap deployment, 80 survey responses were collected. The online survey was distributed with questions on perceived reliability of the service, walking distance, mode choice to site, perceived convenience, and perceived accessibility. Trip data was also collected using the Smart Columbus Operating System (SCOS), a platform designed for big data analytics and data exchange. The operating speeds of the vehicles were shown at all times along the route using the SCOS. The characteristics of each route segment were observed to find its impact on the operating speeds or the shuttle's autonomy.
- The CEAV pilot helped improve the last mile mobility of goods. There were 129,528 meals (3,598 boxes) distributed by the Linden LEAP pantry into the community during the eight-month deployment period.
- In the survey based on customer satisfaction of the CEAV deployments for food pantry delivery, 99 percent (76 of 77) of the patrons were satisfied or extremely satisfied with the convenience.
- The CAEV-enabled food pantry delivery eliminated the two-mile walk to and from the pantry and provided relief to those patrons who do not drive (nine percent of the total patrons). Patrons also no longer needed to carry a 30-40-pound box to and from the food pantry.
- The food pantry delivery service was found to be especially important during the pandemic when food pantry demand increased and there was hesitancy or inability to ride public transportation or get rides from friends and family without risking COVID-19 exposure.