Autonomous shuttle servicing Whitby GO station crashes into tree, attendant injured

Residents in one Scarborough neighbourhood should expect to see an autonomous shuttle named "Ollie" driving around as it brings commuters to and from the local Go station. It's innovative technology but not everyone is excited. David Zura explains.

An autonomous, electric shuttle vehicle operated by Durham Region Transit in Whitby that services the town’s GO station has crashed into a tree and the attendant on board has been critically injured, officials say.

Durham Regional Police Acting Sgt. George Tudos told CityNews emergency crews were called to Watson Street West, south of Victoria Street West, just before 4 p.m. on Thursday with reports of a collision involving a Whitby Autonomous Vehicle Electric (WAVE) shuttle.

Tudos said the circumstances leading up to the crash weren’t immediately clear Thursday evening, noting the shuttle left the road for “reasons unknown.”

“It’s still under investigation. This will take some time due to the uniqueness of this being that the vehicle is an autonomous vehicle,” he said, adding collision reconstruction investigators were working to pull data from the vehicle’s systems and speak with witnesses.

There were no passengers in the shuttle and Tudos said no other vehicles.

He said the attendant was taken to a Toronto trauma centre after the collision and as of Thursday evening he was listed as being in critical condition.

Tudos said the Ontario Ministry of Labour was called in to assist officers with the probe.

Durham Region Transit announced shuttle service along Route 300 would be suspended pending the outcome of the probe into what happened.

Anne Marie Aikins, a spokesperson for Metrolinx — the provincial transportation agency that’s one of the funders for the WAVE shuttle, said the agency was told the vehicle was making its way back to the storage facility when the collision happened.

Aikins referred further questions to transit officials and officers, but said Metrolinx will be “monitoring the investigation closely as safety is critical.”

RELATED: New pilot project to use automated shuttles to take riders to Rouge Hill GO

According to the vehicle pilot project website, the shuttle “integrates smart infrastructure along the route to help create safer roads for pedestrians, transit customers and other drivers.”

Officials said when it comes to the WAVE’s operations, safety is a “top priority” and noted it doesn’t go faster than 20 km/h. They also said a safety attendant is supposed to be on board and that person can “manually take control of the vehicle at any time if required.”

The website noted the vehicles rely heavily on sensors to monitor the surroundings and when other vehicles aren’t adhering to driving rules, the shuttle can make sudden stops.

“The service is aided by more than 50 pieces of smart infrastructure (such as the smart torch shown to the right) that eliminate blind spots experienced by any vehicle and provide real-time audio and visual alerts to other road users about the shuttle’s operation, helping to dramatically increase road safety,” the project site said.

Durham Regional Transit isn’t the only transportation provider in the GTA to conduct an autonomous vehicle pilot project. The TTC setup a similar trial program for the West Rouge neighbourhood to provide service to Rouge Hill GO station.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today