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Self-Driving Bus Dust-Up Starts in Columbus

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Getting around in Columbus, Ohio

We have known that self-driving vehicle testing was coming for our state’s capital of Columbus, Ohio (The News Wheel operates out of Dayton). We have also known self-driving vehicles will likely replace professional drivers in certain areas, like public transit. Given all that, it is hardly a surprise that Columbus is becoming the site of a brewing brouhaha over driverless shuttle services.

The opposition

The challenger to the emerging technology is the Transport Workers Union of America. It launched a new campaign in response to an imminent announcement from Smart Columbus of the first self-driving shuttles in Ohio to start testing.

The TWU dubbed the move the People Before Robots campaign, declaring that self-driving buses were a threat to jobs, dangerous, and no replacement for human drivers. TWU International President John Samuelson appeared with TWU Local 208 President Andrew Jordan and other union leaders in Columbus to launch the campaign, declaring, “We’re not going to let anybody give our jobs away to robots. We’re just not.” The union pointed out that robotic buses couldn’t give the same kind of assistance as a human driver for people with disabilities and children.

The shuttles

The self-driving shuttle service itself is a pilot running along the Scioto Mile in Columbus. It consists of three shuttles from a Michigan-based startup called May Mobility that started running test routes last week. Each shuttle can hold five passengers and one company-hired operator to keep an eye on things. However, the shuttles will not be accepting passengers until December. After that, it will run from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. each day, according to company CEO Edwin Olson.

Smart Columbus is teaming up with the Ohio Department of Transportation DriveOhio agency and Ohio State University on the smart city initiative.

News Sources: Columbus Dispatch, New Hampshire Labor News, Smart Columbus