May Mobility to Begin Testing Autonomous Shuttles in Rhode Island

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【Summary】May Mobility out of Ann Arbor, Michigan has been awarded a contract by the state of Rhode Island to operate an autonomous shuttle service, which will begin on May 15.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    Jun 18, 2019 11:01 AM PT
May Mobility to Begin Testing Autonomous Shuttles in Rhode Island

May Mobility may not be a household name, but the Michigan-based has had quite a few large companies invest into its autonomous shuttle plan. Toyota AI and BMW i Ventures co-led an $11.5 million seed investment into the Ann Arbor-based startup early in 2018. The company, which has always focused on coming out with battery-powered shuttles that could drive autonomously, is getting ready to start its autonomous vehicle pilot program in Rhode Island on May 15.

Little Roady Launching In Providence

The autonomous shuttles and the pilot program, which is being called "Little Roady," started testing at Quonset Business Park in Rhode Island earlier this February, but are shifting gears to officially go into use in Providence next week. The program is part of a multi-agency effort launched by RIDOT called Rhode Island Transportation Innovation Partnership (TRIP).

The goal of the testing in Quonset Business Park was to study "autonomous mobility solutions, ridership, workforce impacts, environmental impacts and technology adoption," claims TRIP.

At the time, Scott Avedisian, CEO of the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority, believed the project would be a great way for the state to get a look at how autonomous cars would help with transportation. "This project gives us the opportunity to gain first-hand experience with this new technology and that information will be invaluable when we look ahead to the impact that autonomous vehicles will have on public transportation in the future," he said.

Where Little Roady Will Operate

Now that the testing phase is complete, Little Roady is about to enter official service. The electric and autonomous vans will circle a 5.3-mile route that runs between Providence Station and Olneyville Square. The autonomous shuttle will make 12 stops along the way, operating from 6:30 AM to 6:30 PM seven days a week. Riders won't have to pay a fee to take a ride on the shuttle, either.

At the moment, each shuttle can hold up to six people. That figures includes an attendant that's on hand to take over if something goes awry. Instead of a steering wheel, the attendant will control the vehicle via a large joystick. But once again, it only needs to be used if something goes wrong. With a lot of testing already under its belt and a maximum top speed of 25 mph, we don't think anything will go wrong.

While recent reports didn't call out Magna specifically, the auto parts manufacturer has a partnership with May Mobility to build self-driving shuttles. So there's a large chance that the shuttles running in Rhode Island are May Mobility and Magna's.

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