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.
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.
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.