Autonomous Ride-Share Startup May Mobility Announces Minority Investment & New Partnership With Tire Maker Bridgestone Americas

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【Summary】Michigan-based autonomous transportation startup May Mobility on Monday announced a minority investment from tire maker Bridgestone Americas (“Bridgestone”). The new partnership will include the future integration of Bridgestone’s digital and predictive tire technologies into May Mobility’s autonomous passenger vehicles.

Eric Walz    Apr 27, 2022 8:30 AM PT
Autonomous Ride-Share Startup May Mobility Announces Minority Investment & New Partnership With Tire Maker Bridgestone Americas
A May Mobility Toyota Sienna autonomous passenger vehicle pictured at the company's headquarters in Ann Arbor, MI.

Michigan-based autonomous transportation startup May Mobilily on Monday announced a minority investment from tire maker Bridgestone Americas ("Bridgestone"). The new partnership will include the future integration of Bridgestone's digital and predictive tire technologies into May Mobility's autonomous passenger vehicles.

It marks Bridegstone's first investment in autonomous vehicles (AVs) that will carry passengers. Bridgestone and May Mobility plan to launch their vehicle service integration plans later this year.

May Mobility, which is based in Ann Arbor, is developing autonomous mobility services for cities, state transit agencies, as well as private enterprises. Over the past five years, the company has provided roughly 300,000 passenger rides with its compact, electric self-driving passenger shuttles.

May Mobility's AVs are outfitted with a suite of redundant sensors for self-driving, including lidar, radar, and cameras that provide a 360-degree view of the environment around the shuttles for safe operation.

The Bridegstone tires will allow for even safer and more efficient operation of May Mobility's AVs. Bridegestone refers to its innovative tire technology as "Tirematics", which uses embedded sensors inside the tire to monitor pressure, temperature, tread depth and other data remotely and in real-time. The tire data can identify any potential problems, such as low air pressure, so it can be addressed before it leads to a flat, or worse a tire blowout.

May Mobility will also utilize insights from Bridegestone's proprietary predictive algorithms to monitor the health of tires installed on its fleet of AVs, which will help improve safety.  For autonomous vehicles designed to operate without a driver that would normally be able to physically inspect or monitor a vehicle tire pressure, this additional tire data is valuable.

To collect and analyze the tire data from an expanding fleet of vehicles, May Mobility will leverage the cloud-based services of Azuga, a fleet mobility solutions company acquired by Bridgestone in 2021. Azuga will help the mobility company to improve business performance with its fleet management platforms, which also feature camera intelligence and route planning features.

May Mobility's partnership with Bridgestone will help make its AVs safer with more efficient operation. However, Bridgestone will also gain valuable insights into autonomous vehicle operations to improve its future tire products and mobility solutions.

"May Mobility is at the forefront of AV innovation and development, and we are excited to partner with the company through our broad service network of company-owned retail stores," said Brian Goldstine, President of Mobility Solutions and Fleet Management, Bridgestone Americas. "Our future plans to integrate the Bridgestone suite of predictive maintenance insights will help ensure that May Mobility vehicles operate even more safely, efficiently and sustainably."

As May Mobility makes plans to scale its autonomous mobility offerings to new markets, the company will be able to operate and service its fleet of AVs through Bridgestone's nationwide network of more than 2,200 tire and automotive service centers, operating under brands such as Firestone Complete Auto Care, Tires Plus and and Wheel Works.

May Mobility will also be able to leverage the company's mobile service provider, Firestone Direct, to handle any tire service needs while out on the road.

"The ability to operate and service vehicles using Bridgestone's 2,200 nationwide stores gives May Mobility an unmatched ability to scale across the country," said Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility. "This collaboration builds upon our shared mission of providing safe and sustainable mobility solutions on a global scale."

In 2019, Bridgestone said that the launch of autonomous robotaxis could boost demand for puncture-resistant "airless tires", which the company is also working on. The ability to avoid flat tires is probably the biggest advantage for use on autonomous vehicles.

May Mobility developed its own Multi-Policy Decision Making (MPDM) for its AVs, with the goal of making autonomous mobility safer, more accessible, equitable, and sustainable. The company plans to continue expanding operations in the U.S. and Japan, building accessible and affordable AV transit solutions for cities and its other customers.

May Mobility is scaling its AV operations with a growing fleet of Toyota passenger vehicles, including the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS ("autonomous mobility-as-a-service") passenger van.

In January, May Mobility announced the initial closing of a $83 million Series C funding round led by Mirai Creation Fund II, which is known for supporting high-growth, high-tech companies. New investors include Toyota Tsusho, the trading arm of the Toyota Group, along with returning investors Toyota Ventures, Millennium Technology Value Partners, Cyrus Capital Partners, 1843 Capital, BMW i Ventures and Bay Lake Ventures. 

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