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DOT Suspends EasyMile Autonomous Shuttles After Injury

Texas Southern University's autonomous shuttle bus traverses the 1-mile Tiger Walk circuit around the campus.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has halted the operation of vehicle manufacturer EasyMile’s autonomous shuttle buses, following an incident where a passenger was injured.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced on Tuesday that the agency suspended operations for 16 of EasyMile’s autonomous vehicles in the U.S., pending an examination of safety issues related to vehicle technology and operations.

The suspension follows an apparent braking incident in Columbus, Ohio, in which one passenger was reportedly hurt, the agency said in a statement.

EasyMile operates vehicles in Delaware, Utah, Texas, Ohio, California, Colorado, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and New Jersey.

The DOT's suspension could impact the planned expansion of an autonomous shuttle program in Houston. METRO Houston, which operates an EasyMile autonomous shuttle in partnership with Texas Southern University, confirmed that it halted operations of the vehicle on Tuesday afternoon.

"The status of the pilot is pending the outcome of the federal government’s review and authorization to resume operations. Approximately 7,900 rides have safely been provided without incident in the University District Vehicle since the inception of METRO’s AV shuttle pilot in June 2019," METRO Chief Innovation Officer Kimberly Williams said in a statement.

METRO said earlier this week that it intended to expand the route to link TSU with METRORail’s Purple Line, the University of Houston main campus and the METRO Eastwood Transit Center.

Testing for the second phase was scheduled to begin this summer, with service slated to begin in the fall.