May Mobility Launches Self-Driving Shuttles for Elderly, Disabled Detroiters

Detroit Automated Driving Systems Shuttle program will aim to assist locals aged 65 or over and those with disabilities

August 3, 2023

3 Min Read
May Mobility's vehicle for Detroit's Automated Driving Systems Shuttle program
May Mobility

Detroit City Council has agreed to a deal with May Mobility to provide self-driving shuttles for elderly and vulnerable residents starting next year.

The council has signed off on a $2.5 million contract with the company, based locally in Ann Arbor, that will see it provide transport for people who struggle to move around independently. 

In particular, the Detroit Automated Driving Systems Shuttle program will aim to assist locals aged 65 or over and those who live with disabilities to attend medical appointments, visit the shops or perform other key tasks that they would otherwise find difficult.

The service will be provided free of charge and is expected to be fully operational by fall 2024, with funding in place until 2026. Residents who don’t qualify for current paratransit services will be eligible for the AV program.

This deployment phase of the project follows a phase of engagement and research that began in January 2022, with a series of community engagement studies.

How the pilot service will run is still being finalized by the Michigan Mobility Collaborative, a public-private partnership developed to devise mobility solutions for older adults.

But it is likely to provide a useful blueprint that shows how autonomous transportation can potentially have a transformative effect on communities.

Related:Self-Driving Transit System Launches in Arizona Retirement Community

The intention is for a self-driving shuttle to pick up riders at their home, take them to their requested destination, and then return them back safely.

Customers will be able to pre-book the ride via an app or website, or through a call center if they are not digitally confident. Two areas will be covered initially – one north of downtown, and another in the city’s south-eastern suburbs.

Human operators will accompany riders to familiarize them with the technology and provide assistance in getting on or off.

The shuttles used are likely to be Level 4 Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS vehicles, which May Mobility has deployed in other projects, such as in the Sun City retirement community in Arizona earlier this year. Level 4 is considered by the Society of Automotive Engineers to be when a vehicle is in control of the driving, within a defined area.

The shuttles’ automated functionality comes via an array of kits that includes lidar, radar and camera sensors.

Tim Slusser, Detroit’s chief of mobility innovation hailed the project, saying: “We are solving for how self-driving vehicle technology can be integrated into our existing transportation network while leading with what it will take to gain a high level of public trust. We want Detroiters to feel safe and well-informed riding on and sharing the road with autonomous vehicles.”

And the city’s director of disability affairs, Christopher Samp, described the service as a “game changer” for residents with disabilities, claiming: “Some individuals with a disability who are not able to obtain a driving license can reclaim their independence with the ability to travel with self-driving cars.”

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