Autonomous shuttle startup May Mobility expands to a third U.S. city

May Mobility launched its first low-speed autonomous shuttle service in Detroit this summer. By March, the Ann Arbor, Michigan-based company will be operating in at least three U.S. cities.

The company, which just announced plans to expand to Columbus, Ohio, is planning to add another route in Grand Rapids, Michigan. It’s a rapid acceleration for a company that was founded less than two years ago.

May Mobility is different from other companies racing to deploy autonomous vehicles at a commercial scale. The startup, which was founded by veterans in the self-driving and automotive industry, has developed low-speed autonomous shuttles that are designed to run along a specific route in business districts or corporate and college campuses.

The company said it will bring four of its six-seat electric shuttles to Grand Rapids. The one-year pilot will begin March 2019.

This latest shuttle launch is part of a broader effort called the Grand Rapids Autonomous Mobility Initiative, a coalition of companies that includes Consumers Energy, French automotive supplier Faurecia, Gentex, Rockford Construction, Seamless and furniture maker Steelcase.

The aim of the program is to study how mobility impacts city infrastructure and prepare the community for autonomous vehicles. The program will also focus on how these autonomous vehicles improve or affect the mobility of elderly and disabled people.

The fleet will operate on a 3.2-mile section of an existing bus route that provides access to downtown and two of the city’s business districts. The route includes 22 stops, 30 traffic lights and 12 turns, including three left turns, according to the initiative.

Shuttles, which will be free for riders, will run complementary to the city’s existing DASH transportation fleet.

Fleet operations for the May Mobility vehicles will be housed at Rockford Construction’s
West Side offices within Circuit West, an area that boasts an innovative electric generation and distribution system.

May Mobility raised $11.5 million in seed funding in 2018 from BMW iVentures, Toyota AI and others. Trucks, Maven Venture and Tandem Ventures are also investors in the company.