(TNS) — The first self-driving shuttles in Ohio will hit the streets in Columbus this week.
May Mobility, a Michigan-based start-up, will operate the shuttles as part of an initiative announced in July by Smart Columbus and DriveOhio.
"We're proud to have the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio being tested on the streets of Columbus," Columbus Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said in a news release. "This pilot will shape future uses of this emerging technology in Columbus and the nation."
The shuttle service will run along the Scioto Mile, connecting riders to COSI, the National Veterans Memorial and Bicentennial Park. An operator will ride along who will oversee the shuttle and take control if need be.
The shuttles will start running the route this week, without passengers. The three shuttles will start accepting passengers in December. May Mobility plans to operate the vehicles from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week, said company CEO Edwin Olson.
"It's a totally different dynamic than a bus which we think is really exciting," he said.
Each shuttle can hold up to six people, including the operator.
"I think people will be underwhelmed by it in a really good way," said Jordan Davis, director of Smart Columbus. "You don't want to get in a self-driving vehicle that makes you feel uncomfortable and sensationalized and things like that."
She said riding in the self-driving shuttle feels like riding in a normal vehicle.
"You become very comfortable very quickly," Davis said. "The operator has a real role to play and I think it will put people at ease."
May Mobility will be hiring 26 people to help run the pilot.
Smart Columbus has joined with ODOT's DriveOhio, the state agency devoted to autonomous-vehicle research, and Ohio State University on the project. Smart Columbus is a collaboration of the city and the Columbus Partnership, an organization of civic and business leaders.
©2018 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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