Whitby autonomous bus in manual mode when it crashed, driver seriously injured: police

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.

Durham Regional Police say an autonomous bus that crashed in Whitby late last year was being operated in a manual mode at the time of the collision, but the circumstances leading up to the incident still aren’t clear.

The incident happened on Dec. 16 just before 4 p.m. at Watson Street West, south of Victoria Street West.

Officers said the bus, an electric shuttle vehicle operated through Durham Region Transit, was travelling southbound on Watson Street West when it lost control and struck a tree.

The safety attendant responsible for operating the vehicle and its lone occupant was taken to a trauma centre with life-threatening injuries.

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

A statement released on Wednesday said it was determined that the vehicle was being operated manually when it left the road.

“The hazard mitigation safety systems designed for the vehicle while in autonomous mode were disabled at the time of the collision,” the statement said.

The 23-year-old driver has since been released from the hospital and investigators said he continues to heal from injuries sustained in the crash, adding a full recovery is anticipated.

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

Meanwhile, officers said the investigation is still ongoing.

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