- Ann Arbor, MI-based startup May Mobility will deploy a fleet of its six-seat autonomous shuttles in Grand Rapids, MI in 2019, marking the company’s third partner city, reports Crain’s Detroit Business.
- The electric shuttles will start running in March along the 3.2-mile route of Grand Rapids’ existing Dash bus route, which serves downtown businesses and commuting hubs, including 10 parking lots. The shuttles can travel up to 25 miles per hour, and will operate with a fleet attendant that can take over in case of an emergency.
- The $750,000 cost of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Mobility initiative is split in thirds between May Mobility, the City of Grand Rapids and nine Michigan companies, according to MLive.com.
May Mobility has already launched its shuttles in Detroit, and in September announced plans to put them on the streets of Columbus, OH in partnership with Smart Columbus and DriveOhio. With Grand Rapids expanding at a fast clip, the shuttles are a natural fit to offer another transportation option for workers and visitors. Mobile GR director Josh Naramore told Crain’s Business Detroit that Grand Rapids also hopes to be a model for smaller cities, like Des Moines, IA or Milwaukee, as they try to find autonomous transit solutions.
The shuttles hold plenty of potential for cities — they run on predictable routes, have little variability and can move riders efficiently around a downtown area as a possible solution to the "first mile, last mile" problem of connecting people to transit stations. They can also collect data on road hazards, congestion and ridership, helping cities plan for new shuttle or bus services.
"This distinct partnership between the city and a broad group of private interests shows how self-driving vehicles can integrate into a city, complement existing public transportation and provide equal access to all people," May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson said at an event in Grand Rapids.
Similar shuttles have also launched in cities like Austin, TX, Denver and Las Vegas, and a school district in Florida is set to test an autonomous shuttle to supplement school bus service later this year.