Michigan-based low-speed autonomous shuttle service operator May Mobility continues its rapid expansion with the addition of 2 new routes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The news was broken in conjunction with the unveiling of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Mobility Initiative (GRAMI), which provides a formal structure and team to integrate autonomous vehicles into the fabric of the city.
A City-Wide Autonomous Transit Initiative
The GRAMI is a unique public-private partnership that was formed to “gather and analyze critical information to understand the usage of autonomous vehicles and their environments,” according to the press release announcing the initiative. The new low-speed, fixed route autonomous shuttle routes in Grand Rapids will kick off in March 2019 with a four pack of the company’s six-seat electric shuttles. The initial pilot program will run for a full year to allow the city to get a feel for the autonomous shuttles and make a determination about their future potential in the city.
“Across the US, cities are seeking cost-effective, safe, and reliable transportation services that will improve congestion and convert cities into more livable and green spaces. Self-driving shuttles are a great solution,” said Edwin Olson, founder and CEO of May Mobility. “As we strive to make transportation that is more accessible and convenient, we’re thrilled to be working with the city of Grand Rapids and partners to accelerate a path toward a future where the people of Grand Rapids can drive less and live more.”
GRAMI will operate the new 3.2-mile autonomous shuttle route that includes 22 stops, 30 traffic lights, and 12 turns, providing a healthy variety of real-world traffic scenarios for the autonomous shuttles to navigate.
The news of the expansion in Grand Rapids comes just days after announcing that May Mobility was adding service in Columbus, Ohio, as the third city it provided shuttle service in. The new service in Columbus is slated to start up on December 1st on a 3-mile route that loops through the center of the city along what is called the Scioto Mile loop.
“We’re proud to have the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio being tested on the streets of Columbus,” said Mayor Andrew J. Ginther. “This pilot will shape future uses of this emerging technology in Columbus and the nation. Residents win when we add more mobility options to our transportation ecosystem – making it easier to get to work, school or local attractions.”
Columbus is one of the rising stars in adopting clean tech and transit solutions as it works to leverage its winnings from the $40 million Smart City Challenge a few years ago. The city made news earlier this year with the grand opening of its new Smart Columbus Experience Center that brings together the numerous clean transportation options available across the city.
May Mobility’s 6-passenger autonomous shuttles are being built by Magna from the chassis up in nearby Troy, Michigan. Magna takes the rolling chassis and builds up the bodies and autonomous shuttle technology according to May Mobility’s specifications. Specifically, that includes May Mobility requirements like:
- Custom doors and the panoramic moonroof
- Drive-by-Wire Upfitting to convert the vehicles into an autonomous-ready state
- Sensor integration, including mounting, cabling, and streamlined cowlings
Selecting an established automotive component provider and service company like Magna gives May Mobility the ability to throttle production up, as needed, to support future growth. Considering that ~2 year old May Mobility is already establishing routes in 3 cities, that could happen much faster than we’ve historically seen with other types of transit deployments.
“Magna shares our high technical standards and excitement about servicing the growing demand for self-driving vehicles to meet today’s transportation needs, while also laying the path for the future,” said Steve Vozar, founder and CTO for May Mobility. “This deal demonstrates our commitment to scale and accelerate operations with a partner who understands quality and reliability in the build process, and who can match the exacting process that makes us a trusted community partner.”