5 Ways May Mobility Successfully Launches in Cities

May Mobility doesn’t use a one-size-fits-all template for bringing its autonomous shuttle service to a city. A prospective May deployment develops over time with an informed and collaborative approach to solving mobility challenges. 

“Our most successful deployments are a collaboration, helping a city to solve a transportation issue,” explains Nicole Kelly, Vice President of Customer Operations at May Mobility. “We fulfill a  greater purpose than simply doing a technology demonstration when we understand a city’s needs and how May can help shape that vision through our shared mobility solution.”

Though there isn’t a copy-and-paste list of requirements, several key elements are imperative to bringing a successful May Mobility deployment to a city: 

1. Doing the homework

Ahead of initial meetings with city officials and community partners, May Mobility already has some basic idea of the mobility gaps a May service may be able to help close. 

“Before we even interact with customers, our field engineering team studies potential service areas. We bring these suggestions to the city and other partners to help iterate and better understand how these routes can service these communities,” Kelly says.

2. Develop and maintain relationships

Close contact with city officials, community leaders and other stakeholders ensures that potential issues are addressed early on and solved before they become bigger. Further, an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders helps improve services as well as adjust routes and timetables when needed. 

“Close collaboration is key — and that starts on day one,” Kelly notes. Without a close connection to the community, a successful deployment is impossible.” 

3. Local presence, local engagement 

In each city, May employs a local team based at a physical headquarters to focus on that city and its unique May service. The teams are hired locally to help more seamlessly integrate into the community fabric. May hosts and attends community events to interact with residents and help expand its presence in the local ecosystem. 

“Once we are operating, we make sure we have a strong relationship between the site team, the ridership, as well as the larger community,” explains Kendra Newsome, Manager of Customer Operations.  

May Mobility participates in the University of Texas at Arlington’s Activity Fair in September of 2021.

4. Make riders feel comfortable and safe 

“We are deploying something most people have never interacted with before,” notes Newsome. “One of our main goals is making people feel safe and comfortable with the technology.” 

Most of the ridership doesn’t have experience with an autonomous vehicle, so it is important that initial impressions are positive. Autonomous Vehicle Operators, or AVOs, assist with that education for riders by answering any questions they may have. May Mobility also engages in training with local first responders to make sure they understand the technology and how to approach it in the case of an emergency. 

A rider enters an autonomous May Mobility shuttle in Fishers, IN ahead of the December 2021 launch.

Further, with a focus on making the service accessible, May Mobility hosts workshops with disability advocates and provides wheelchair-accessible vehicles. 

5. Be a mobility problem solver

“We are really focused on the last mile,” Kelly says, referring to the gap between the last transit stop or parking lot between a commuter and their destination. In many cities, the last mile is often the most difficult transportation hurdle. 

In cities such as Grand Rapids, MI, May Mobility shuttles provide routes no longer served by buses to connect neighborhoods to the downtown city center. Further, May is working to integrate with micro-mobility platforms such as e-bike and scooter hubs. And May shuttles have helped cities adjust the timing of traffic signals to help traffic move more efficiently.

White glove approach

May Mobility’s approach to launching a new service in a city involves a “white glove” interaction that includes frequent meetings and ongoing discussions with a location for six months up to one year before an official deployment. As outlined above, no single approach exists but rather several best practices that help May Mobility bring mobility solutions to cities to help solve transportation challenges.

Driving Workforce Development in the Age of Autonomy

At May Mobility, we believe in an autonomous future — one that offers safe, clean, and accessible transportation in cities around the world. The transportation workers who will keep autonomous vehicles operating each and every day are a key component of that future. According to the Michigan Mobility Institute (MMI), self-driving and electric cars will help create more than 100,000 mobility industry jobs in the U.S. in the next decade. These jobs will include both operational and technical roles that require training, retraining or upskill training from the roles many employees hold today. May is not only committed to providing that training, but is already taking steps to ensure that today’s workforce has the skills needed for the transportation landscape for the next decade and beyond.

Helping Move the Industry Forward

May Mobility is not at it alone. An autonomous future requires stakeholders from the private and public sectors to come together with a similar vision and mission to prepare today’s workforce for an autonomous future. 

The Michigan Mobility Institute (MMI), the first initiative of the Detroit Mobility Lab that works to accelerate mobility workforce development, upskilling programs, and post-secondary degrees by bringing industry, labor and education partners together, is one such organization. As an employer partner, May collaborates with MMI to create the strategy and tools that will be necessary to prepare talent for careers in mobility.  

Additionally, May joined the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO), a coalition of leading companies and associations with a shared interest in advancing autonomous vehicles and other transportation innovation and supporting the American workforce. The coalition studies autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the workforce to ensure that deployment of the technology will improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans.

Both MMI and PTIO align well with one of May’s core missions: ensuring there is a real-world benefit for everything we create. 

“We want to create a future where everyone benefits from autonomous mobility solutions,” said Tara Lanigan, Head of Policy and Advocacy for May. “We are committed to supporting, developing and implementing programs that help prepare and train the workforce of future mobility.”  

A May Mobility Autonomous Vehicle Operator (AVO) prepares the vehicle to perform service for the day in Arlington, TX. Photo by Anthony La Penna.

Learning with Our Partners

In addition to playing an active role in industry organizations, May works closely with industry partners such as transit agency IndyGo. As part of the Together in Motion AV project, May Mobility and IndyGo are sharing learnings and collaborating on the future of mobility in Indianapolis. 

During the downtown Indianapolis portion of the TiM pilot, IndyGo and May Mobility set out to connect regularly for two primary reasons: for IndyGo to gain insight on AV operations in its own city, and for May Mobility to better understand how transit agencies envision the future of AVs tying into their own operations. 

“The benefits to public transport appear limitless,” said Brooke Thomas, Director of Strategic Planning for IndyGo. Adding, “further advancements in automated vehicle technologies for public transport is everything from maintaining and enhancing the safety of our transit operations, increasing the efficiency or productivity of our transit network, or both, to enhancing the customer experience.”

“One of the things that makes May Mobility unique is that we design autonomous solutions to complement existing transit options and not replace them,” said Lanigan. “This mindset extends to workforce development as we learn what training might be required for future mobility.” 

May and IndyGo outlined learning goals they have for each other. IndyGo was particularly interested in workforce development as they work to define their team’s jobs of the future. 

In August, May Mobility hosted IndyGo for a half-day event designed to help IndyGo identify the roles that are likely to exist as transportation becomes more autonomous. The May team provided an overview of our technology, services and internal operations, and the IndyGo team participated in job shadowing May employees.  

Representatives from IndyGo and May Mobility at a workforce development session in Indianapolis in August of 2021.

In September, the two organizations reflected during a virtual session on the learnings from the previous job shadowing session and further discussed the future of workforce development. The conversation revealed many operational similarities between the companies and provided good insights for what an autonomous workforce might look like. 

“May hopes to show our partners and educators the importance of building AV-career pathways from their classrooms,” said Shana Downs, Director of Sales and Channel Management at May Mobility. “The skills required to work in AV overlap with many existing areas of study, including technicians, hospitality, digital media and network security. 

The Jobs of the Future

As mobility and transit jobs evolve from inside the vehicle to outside, there will be an increased need for both technical and operational staff. Vehicle operators will have opportunities to transition to a variety of different roles, including repair and maintenance technicians, route logistics managers, data analysts and fleet managers — all responsible for managing the fleet and ensuring the safety of the vehicles and riders. Additional customer service and team management roles will emerge, specifically as companies work to understand how riders are using services and how routes can be improved. 

A significant number of technical roles will be necessary in the mobility future as well. Autonomous vehicles require a great deal of software and equipment upgrades, calibration and replacement. AVs will need to be managed and monitored remotely as well. 

“We feel that AVs could create a lot of new work activities, and May wants to work with cities, transit agencies and other partners to understand what those roles and career paths could be,” said Downs.

Regardless of what the future of autonomous mobility will hold, May Mobility is working hard to ensure the workforce is trained and prepared to keep things moving, creating more opportunity today even as the future of mobility evolves before our eyes.

How Sustainable Cities and Transportation Equity are Linked to Freedom with Jennifer Keesmaat

May Mobility is on a mission to solve for transportation equity with an autonomous solution that links into current transportation systems — providing a better alternative to current consumptive, expensive and unsustainable modes of transportation. Jennifer Keesmaat, Board Member for May Mobility and former chief city planner for the City of Toronto, explains why equitable transportation is ultimately linked to providing freedom for citizens and cities to fully thrive. Learn more from Jennifer on these critical issues.

Watch this video and more on our Youtube channel.