ANN ARBOR—The Ann Arbor autonomous vehicle technology and shuttle service provider May Mobility announced the launch of an on-demand autonomous vehicle shuttle service in Grand Rapids.
Partners in the effort include the city of Grand Rapids, the New York City-based transit technology provider Via Transportation Inc., and the Zeeland-based automotive electronics manufacturer Gentex.
The expanded, on-demand service began on July 26, as part of Phase 2 of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative (AVGR), and transitions the prior fixed route AV service into a flexible, dynamic system in a new service zone.
“We look forward to continuing our partnership with the City of Grand Rapids through an expanded zone in the downtown area,” said Edwin Olson, co-founder and CEO of May Mobility. “The new service allows us to explore transportation needs in new areas of the community and provides additional opportunities for people to experience safer, greener, more accessible transportation through autonomous mobility.”
The on-demand service, which includes four May Mobility Lexus RX450h vehicles and one wheelchair-accessible Polaris GEM equipped with May Mobility’s autonomous technology, operates within a 1.36 square-mile service zone that includes more than 20 designated pick up and drop off areas in downtown Grand Rapids. The May Mobility AV shuttles are free to ride and operate Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“The City of Grand Rapids has enjoyed its partnership with May Mobility to provide innovative mobility options through the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative,” said Justin Kimura, assistant director of Mobile GR. “We look forward to embarking on this next phase together and support continued development of autonomous mobility technology while providing another equitable mobility option to connect underserved neighborhoods in Ward 1 to the downtown area.”
Transitioning to “On Demand”
May Mobility has adopted Via’s autonomous fleet platform to power booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment and identification, customer experience, and fleet management as part of their new flexible transit solution for this Grand Rapids deployment. The partners have a long-term strategy to introduce driverless on-demand shared transit systems in multiple locations. The Grand Rapids launch follows the companies’ joint RAPID autonomous vehicle service in Arlington, Texas. RAPID offers autonomous vehicle rides as part of the City of Arlington’s large on-demand public transit service with Via, and is the first-of-its kind in the US.
“In order for autonomous vehicles to reach their full potential as part of large-scale transit networks, they must be on-demand, optimally routed, and shared by multiple passengers,” said Cariann Chan, Via’s senior vice president of business. “We are proud to work with May Mobility to offer Via’s flexible platform to help achieve this goal, and to play a leading role in this new era of efficient and equitable transportation solutions in Grand Rapids.”
Riders can request vehicles within the designated area of service by downloading the May Mobility mobile application, which is available for both Android and iOS devices. The app shows the rider the nearest pickup location and suggested drop off location within closest proximity to their point of interest.
No Item Left Behind
It’s a common situation when an item such as a mobile device, a briefcase or a purse is left on public transportation and the subsequent feeling of helplessness that follows. May Mobility and Gentex are working together to integrate a data capture system with sensing pods into the May Mobility self-driving shuttles that will help the companies develop technology to track objects, monitor passenger health and safety, and keep the vehicle clean and operational.
Said Gentex CTO Neil Boehm: “This service expansion not only provides the city with a unique, supplemental public transport hub, but also acts as a real-world laboratory for studying, evaluating, and testing various safety and convenience components necessary to better support passengers in the autonomous age.”
To celebrate the launch of the on-demand service in an adjacent service zone May Mobility and MobileGR will host demonstration rides on Tuesday, Aug. 24 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the YMCA Grand Rapids, 475 Lake Michigan Dr NW.
More at maymobility.com, www.gentex.com, grandrapidsmi.us, or https://ridewithvia.com/.