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December 20, 2023
Self-driving tech company May Mobility has announced the launch of its first driverless service on public roads.
The company, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is to deploy rider-only autonomous vehicles (AVs) in Sun City, Arizona.
May Mobility initially started operating there earlier this year, with its on-demand transit service ferrying retirement community residents to grocery stores, pharmacies and medical centers.
The AVs – Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS minivans fitted with radar, lidar and cameras – were accompanied by human safety monitors, who were on hand to reassure riders.
Now, though, the monitors are being removed from the shuttles and the AVs will rely wholly on the company’s proprietary Multi-Policy Decision Making tech to drive themselves.
As we have seen with other operators in other locations, May Mobility will take an incremental approach to their introduction.
Initially, the service will only operate between Mondays and Fridays in the afternoons. It will be available free of charge to a select group of “Early Riders” – described by May Mobility as a “group of Sun City residents with varying transportation needs.”
They will be able to request a pick-up from a variety of stops via the May Mobility app.
The service is being run in partnership with logistics specialist Via.
By launching the service in a limited fashion at first, May Mobility intends to listen to relevant feedback from the Early Riders that will help it scale its fully driverless operations and – bearing in mind the disastrous chain of events that has grounded Cruise’s self-driving taxi fleet – safety will be a priority at every step.
While the likes of Cruise and Waymo have introduced their autonomous taxis to the public in major cities, May Mobility is pursuing a very different strategy, partnering directly with municipalities, cities and agencies to identify gaps in public transportation systems and provide solutions.
It believes this approach can help it avoid the financial problems that have dogged other AV companies, and the launch of a fully driverless service has been hailed as a “cornerstone for commercial growth” by CEO Edwin Olson.
Anna Brunelle, chief financial officer of May Mobility, added: “May Mobility has built a more scalable autonomy solution at a fraction of the cost of other systems of a similar maturity. And as we continue to expand and improve our driverless operational design domain, we step closer to our goal of being the first profitable AV company.”
Sun City represents the first of several locations globally where May Mobility aims to launch its rider-only transit services. The development rounds off a good year for the company, with a host of new deployments including in Detroit and the Bay Area, California, plus a funding round of $105 million in November.
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