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May Mobility’s autonomous microtransit might outperform robotaxis in terms of economics.

May Mobility, an autonomous car firm, has started its first driverless on-demand microtransit service on public roads in Sun City, Arizona, in collaboration with transit technology company Via. The achievement corresponds to May Mobility’s objective of starting rider-only operations by 2023. It also suggests that the startup’s gradual approach to commercializing autonomy may be successful.

Sun City is designed for “active, retired adults.” In such a scenario, launching a driverless microtransit service isn’t as showy as deploying robotaxis on the streets of San Francisco or making autonomous pickups and dropoffs at Phoenix International Airport. However, it has enabled the firm to grow consistently while avoiding problems.

May’s approach to integrating its autonomous microtransit service into current public transportation in collaboration with cities has also paved the way for future, more difficult deployments. According to Carlos Cruz-Casas, chief innovation officer of Miami-Dade County’s Department of Public Works, May Mobility will begin an on-demand shuttle service in Miami, also in collaboration with Via. May Mobility and Via did not answer in time for Eltrys to confirm.

Remember that rival Cruise only tested autonomous robotaxis for a day in Miami before removing its whole fleet following an October incident in which a pedestrian was injured and pulled by one of the GM-backed company’s cars? Cruise’s rights to operate in California have already been stopped, and the company laid off 900 workers and a handful of executives last week.

May has managed to grow without incident by keeping its head down and undertaking small-scale deployments. In Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Arlington, Texas, the firm has been running shuttles inside campuses and to defined stops along established routes. May just partnered with Via to develop an on-demand service in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Customers in Grand Rapids may summon one of May’s Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS AVs from a geofenced area.

Steve Miller, an Insurance Office of America risk management specialist specializing in autonomous cars, told Eltrys that he expects to see more regulated, low-speed shuttles and on-demand services like those provided by May and rival Beep. Beep offers self-driving shuttles for resident transportation in Lake Nona, Florida, as well as public transit in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. Beep also transports passengers to and from Disney’s Celebration and Wilderness Lodge properties.

“What we’re seeing now as we talk about commercial deployment is that the industry is really focused on trucking or shuttling, like a Beep or May Mobility-type shuttle,” Miller said, adding that building Level 2 advanced driver assistance software for OEMs is also a trend among AV firms. “And the reason those two are leading the charge is that they both have the advantage of operating in well-defined operating domains.” They are in safe situations. What makes robotaxis challenging is that there are several edge scenarios that cannot be represented at this time.”

May, for one, claims that their multi-policy decision-making system is well-equipped to deal with edge scenarios. The technology “runs real-time, on-board simulations to analyze thousands of possible scenarios every second, choosing the safest one to execute,” according to the business.

According to Miller, the current fundraising climate incentivizes organizations to concentrate on sustainability around their core business rather than moonshot objectives. May secured a $105 million round in November, increasing its total capital to $300 million.

“I do think you’re going to see more of the shuttle-type operations just because there’s an endless number of cities and municipalities in the U.S., and there’s a lot of grant money that comes along with transportation,” Miller said. “So I think you’re going to see interest from cities, airports, and transit hubs—there are so many opportunities for plugging into mass transit, and I think that’s going to be pretty lucrative.”

Sun City’s driverless debut
According to the firm, May Mobility’s inaugural rider-only service in Sun City would allow a “select group of early riders” to request a pickup in one of the company’s Autono-MaaS minivans from a range of places.

The free service will first run on public highways from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. According to a business spokeswoman, growth is inevitable, but it will be contingent on May’s thoughtful and sensitive approach to safety, rider feedback, and community trust.

Riders may use the May Mobility app, which is accessible on Google Play and the Apple App Store, to book the on-demand ride-hailing service. Residents who want to be among the first to ride may apply online.

Eltrys Team
Author: Eltrys Team

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