Auto Tech

Self-driving startup halts passenger rides following minor injury

EasyMile's autonomous shuttles can still operate on public roads in the US, but NHTSA won't allow passengers onboard for now.

No riders for now, folks.

Following a minor incident, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has told France-based self-driving technology startup EasyMile to cease passenger rides.

The company made the temporary suspension public in a Tuesday announcement, saying a passenger "slipped from their seat in a minor incident." According to the company, it occurred when the EasyMile autonomous shuttle came to an emergency stop on a test route in the Columbus, Ohio, area.

EasyMile operates its autonomous bus-looking vehicles at very low speeds, as was the case when this incident occurred. The shuttle was traveling at 7.1 mph when the vehicle performed an emergency stop.

NHTSA will now perform a review following the passenger injury, but the agency hasn't taken EasyMile off the road entirely. The shuttles are still permitted to operate on public roads in the 10 states the startup operates. For now, however, there won't be any passengers onboard.

The startup will continue running test loops to analyze the sudden stop. It also declared its onboard service people are trained to remind riders to hold onto railings while in motion.

EasyMile is one of many startup companies vying to become a standard in the future of mobility. True self-driving cars, however, remain a far-off prospect. The crowded segment includes ride-hailing companies such as Uber, automakers like General Motors and Toyota, and technology stalwarts such as Google's parent company Alphabet through its Waymo subsidiary. Despite progress, Waymo is the only company that operates a paid ride-hailing service with autonomous vehicles, though it's still not available for public use.

On Tuesday, the National Transportation Safety Board announced plans to further investigate Tesla's driver-assist technology Autopilot's role in the fatal crash that killed an Apple engineer.

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