Following Whitby autonomous crash, Toronto also suspends its shuttle pilot
The shuttle attendent was taken to hospital with critical inuries after this December 16th accident. Photo: Colin Williamson
RWN shot this video on November 1, 2021, at the media lauch of Whitby’s autonomous shutttle pilot service. Remarks are by Autoguardian CEO Tenille Houston.
(UPDATED 11:30am) — Following the December 16 accident in which the self-driving vehicle hit a tree, Whitby’s autonomous shuttle service “has been suspended until a full investigation has been completed,” says Durham Region Transit in a statement.
Additionally, the city of Toronto has taken its pilot shuttle out of service pending the results of the investigation: “The West Rouge Automated Shuttle Trial has been put on hold due to an incident in Whitby involving a similar service and due to current public health guidance regarding COVID-19,” reads the banner notice displayed on Toronto’s website.
Durham’s statement reads: “On December 16, Durham Region Transit (DRT) and project partners of the Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric (WAVE) shuttle were informed about a collision involving a safety attendant who was in the shuttle at that time.
“We were saddened to hear about this disturbing event, and are deeply concerned for the attendant, who was taken to hospital. Our focus, at this time, continues to be on the well-being of the individual.
“Circumstances around the cause of the collision are not yet known, and the incident is being investigated by police. While details are under investigation, we can confirm the shuttle was not in service and no passengers were on board at the time. Thank you to Durham Regional Police Services (DRPS) and emergency response services for their rapid response to the incident.
“Shuttle service has been suspended until a full investigation has been completed.”
Road Warrior News covered the November 1st launch of the Whitby shuttle pilot, and observed that the “autonomous” vehicle was very much driven by the attendant. The Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric Shuttle Project (WAVE) is organized by multiple government agency partners and AutoGuardian by Smartcone.
“We are working with Durham Region Police Services to assist the investigation of this incident,” AutoGuardian CEO Tenille Houston told Road Warrior News in an email on December 23rd. “The safety and well-being of our team members is our number one priority and we will be certain to support in any way possible. As this is part of an active investigation I cannot say more at this time.”
The pilot launched officially on November 2nd; Road Warrior News attended the November 1st media launch and videotaped one shuttle run in its entirety, including this observation:
“The summary conclusion is that on this trip, the vehicle was very much driven by Phil Karbach, the human shuttle operator.
“On some sections of the 6 kilometre trip, the shuttle (nicknamed “Olli”) did indeed drive autonomously. However, Phil was required for constant correction and support, on some occasions taking over the piloting of the vehicle completely. To call the shuttle “self-driving” or “autonomous” would be a very large stretch of language; event organizers were clear about the fact that the project is very much a pilot, and that the vehicle is not in fact ready for the road on its own.”