Self-driving shuttle company May Mobility, which has Canadian supplier Magna International as a partner, continues to expand its operations.
The startup will launch service Wednesday in Providence, R.I., where it will run its six-passenger electric shuttles seven days a week and serve as a key link between a transit station and downtown Providence.
Shuttles operating as part of the Little Roady pilot program are free and open to the public. Rhode Island is paying May Mobility $800,000 (all figures USD) for the first year of operations. The shuttles will make 12 stops along a route that spans approximately 6 miles, the company's longest to date.
"We're looking forward to connecting quite a bit of the city together," said Alisyn Malek, the company's COO. "We've got people on the ground now, and others are seeing our vehicles as we get ready to scale up."
Malek offered fresh details on the Providence service and the company's broader aspirations during an interview on today's episode of the Shift podcast. (Listen here).
May Mobility doesn't sell vehicles outright to vendors. Instead, it owns its fleet and handles all oversight and maintenance. Human safety drivers remain behind the wheel of all its vehicles. The company closed a Series A funding round valued at $22 million in February.
Providence will be the third U.S. city in which May Mobility operates its self-driving shuttles. In June 2018, it became the first autonomous vehicle company to launch commercial operations, working with the Bedrock real estate firm in Detroit to connect parking garages and downtown offices.
In February, May Mobility began operating shuttles in Columbus, Ohio, with similar goals of connecting commuters with their offices in mind. Service in Grand Rapids, Mich., is slated to begin this summer.
Connecting an Amtrak station with downtown Providence, along with the Olneyville Square neighborhood, will be the first time May Mobility serves as a connector between public transit and a city, an aspect of the deployment the company is eager to explore.
Commuters "need the ability to get into the city where their actual job destination is," Malek said. "They can use the May Mobility shuttle to get to their jobs and connect with different bus lines. It shows the role autonomy can play even today. It's not ready for everything, but even today, we can come in and solve some of these challenges."
Canadian auto parts supplier Magna International Inc. outfits the low-speed electric shuttles equipped with May Mobility self-driving software.
The automotive and software supplier retrofits the low-speed self-driving “micro transit” electric vehicles from the chassis up. Magna provides:
- Body modifications, such as custom doors and a panoramic moonroof;
- Drive-by-wire upfitting to convert the vehicles into an autonomous-ready state;
- Sensor integration, including mounting, cabling, and streamlined cowlings.
Magna works on the vehicles in its Troy, Michigan-based custom build centre.