SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — The first injury has been reported on Utah’s new driverless shuttle.
Gene Petrie, 76, was thrown from his seat Tuesday when the autonomous shuttle came to a sudden stop. His face hit a handrail near the door, bruising him badly and causing black eyes.
“Out of the clear blue, it suddenly stopped, and it wasn’t a slow-down stop,” said Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the Utah State Tax Commission, where Petrie works. “It was a sudden stop.”
Petrie went to the hospital for treatment. He was back at work the next day and is now feeling better, although still healing from the injuries.
He is one of the many state workers who are riding the shuttle near the Multi Agency State Office Building while the Utah Department of Transportation tests the technology.
John Gleason, UDOT spokesman, called it “an incredibly unfortunate incident.”
“As soon as this happened, we took the shuttle out of service immediately for about 24 hours and ran a bunch of tests on it, ran through the emergency stops, looked at the software, looked at the sensors,” Gleason said.
UDOT is confident the shuttle is safe, even as the agency and the manufacturer work to determine the cause. It’s still a mystery what caused the sudden stop, as no one noticed a person or obstacle that may have tripped a sensor.
“You hate to see an incident like that, but we’re confident in the overall safety of the shuttle,” Gleason said, “and we’ve taken a lot of precautions to ensure something like this doesn’t happen again.”
The agency has dropped the top speed from 12 miles per hour to 9. The operator is now more frequently reminding people that abrupt stops are possible.
UDOT sees autonomous vehicles as a key component of its zero fatalities mission.