But on Feb. 25, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it had "suspended passenger operations for 16 of EasyMile's autonomous vehicles, pending an examination of safety issues related to both vehicle technology and operations." The agency took action after a passenger fell from a seat and reported being hurt in Columbus, Ohio one week earlier.
Tony McCaulay, LAVTA's director of planning and marketing, told the Weekly, "Our EasyMile autonomous vehicle is still in the testing phase and is not carrying passengers. For now, NHTSA has indicated that testing of EasyMile vehicles without passengers can continue. We will monitor the outcome of NHTSA's review."
During the incident in Ohio, a battery-powered shuttle involved was driving at 7 mph "and made an emergency stop as it is programmed to do for safety, according to EasyMile.
The vehicles are still allowed on public roads but cannot carry passengers while the NHTSA investigates the incident -- a decision the company called "a clear indication it considers them safe for other road users."
NHTSA said they will "continue to work with all affected parties, including EasyMile and local authorities, to evaluate potential future vehicle operations, consistent with applicable legal requirements and public safety."
Lauren Isaac, director of business initiative for EasyMile, said she "can't speak to how quickly the suspension will be lifted ... but we hope soon."
California law allows the operation of AVs on public roads with a driver or -- in the case of the EasyMile shuttles which lack a steering wheel, brake pedal or accelerator -- an attendant present during testing.
Dublin Mayor David Haubert and Pleasanton City Councilwoman Karla Brown are among the local leaders who have publicly supported the pilot AV shuttle program and LAVTA's mission to simultaneously create more commuting options for Bay Area residents and increase environmental sustainability.
EasyMile, which is privately held, has driverless shuttles across the world, including 16 cities in 10 U.S. states.
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