Self-Driving Vehicles Join Public Transit Options in Twin Cities

May Mobility deploys autonomous vehicles in Minneapolis’ SouthWest Transit system

Graham Hope

July 10, 2024

3 Min Read
May Mobility

Self-driving tech firm May Mobility has confirmed another new deployment of its autonomous vehicles (AVs).

The Michigan-based company will integrate five AVs into the existing public transport service provided by Minneapolis’ SouthWest Transit in Eden Prairie, Minnesota starting in the fall. 

SouthWest Transit already delivers shared ride, on-demand “microtransit” options – small vehicles such as passenger cars and vans – in the suburb that is located to the south-west of the Twin Cities, but the agreement with May Mobility marks the first time that AVs will be used there.

The pair have signed a three-year deal which will see May Mobility’s familiar converted Toyota Siennas, fitted with the company’s Multi-Policy Decision Making (MPDM) tech, ferry members of the public between Eden Prairie’s residential, employment and shopping districts.

The AVs will also provide transportation to local mobility hubs, including the Southwest Light Rail, which connects downtown Minneapolis and downtown Saint Paul.

The Sienna’s automated functionality works via a suite of lidar and radar sensors, plus cameras, which provide a 360-degree view of surroundings. MPDM uses this data to virtually simulate thousands of possible scenarios every second, allowing it to decide on the safest maneuvers.

Related:Wheelchair Accessible AVs Make Public Transit Debut

As is the case with Eden Prairie’s current microtransit options, users will be able to summon the May Mobility AVs by using the SouthWest Transit Prime app, developed by software company Spare.

And while it is hoped that those users who are already registered will make use of the new May Mobility self-driving options, the fact that the AVs feature an ADA-compliant wheelchair ramp and securement system should ensure that members of the Eden Prairie community who have previously faced mobility challenges will also benefit.

May Mobility has previous experience operating in Minnesota – having launched a service in Grand Rapids in 2022 – and chief commercial officer Manik Dhar said this would be a benefit as it enters Eden Prairie.

“Our autonomous driving technology has proven its ability to scale well across diverse circumstances and even navigate under the state’s harsh winter climates,” Dhar said. “Our experience in deploying safe and equitable autonomous rides will enhance the city’s public transportation system and connect even more people to essential destinations both near and far.”

These diverse deployments across the United States include a retirement community in Sun City, Arizona, a service to take people to medical appointments in the city of Martinez in the Bay Area, California and a shuttle for vulnerable residents of Detroit. The company says MPDM has now delivered approximately 350,000 autonomous rides.

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

Erik Hansen, CEO of SouthWest Transit added: “We’re excited to be the first to bring this innovative transit solution to the Twin Cities. By expanding on our wildly popular SouthWest Prime microtransit service, we will stay on the cutting edge and ensure that we can provide a premium transit service for years to come.” 

About the Author(s)

Graham Hope

Graham Hope has worked in automotive journalism in the U.K. for 26 years, including spells as editor of leading consumer news website and weekly Auto Express and respected buying guide CarBuyer.

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