May Mobility named one of Y Combinator’s Top Companies

May Mobility has been ranked as one of the 2022 Y Combinator (YC) Top Companies for the second year in a row! The list is made up of private, public and exited companies valued at $150 million or more. We were originally part of Y Combinator’s 2017 class of incubators.

This year’s list included more than 260 companies, spanning 20 countries, valued at $150 million and above, with 99 new companies joining the list since last year. The list also saw a rise in companies operating remotely, with 11 percent of the top companies working remote-first. 

“May Mobility participated in Y Combinator during the summer of 2017 (S17), with a pitch centered around building autonomous vehicles that could help transform the way people live and get around their communities,” said Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility. “Since then, we’ve attracted great investors and partners, turned that pitch into reality with more than 300,000 revenue-generating rides delivered and will deploy the first autonomous Toyota Siennas on public roads later this year.”

Y Combinator selected startups receive seed funding and a three-month bootcamp, helping the companies refine their strategies and investor pitches. The program culminates in the YC Demo Day. May Mobility officially debuted at the 2017 Demo Day.

Part engineer, part problem solver: Bringing May to a city requires listening, testing and adjusting

Months ahead of any May Mobility deployment, a small, agile team of engineers begin scouting, mapping and, eventually, defining service areas and routes for each new city. These highly skilled professionals, known as Field Autonomy Engineers (FAEs), work in two-person teams at each new deployment to ensure the service is fully capable of meeting the community’s transportation needs. Key members of the team from the moment May Mobility defines a potential new deployment and throughout the entire deployment process, FAEs ensure a city’s launch is technologically and logistically feasible, making an upfront investment in time, energy and resources to identify, define and perfect each service.

A field autonomy engineer speaks with a rider in a downtown area near a May Mobility autonomous vehicle.

A field autonomy engineer speaks with a potential rider.

Hearing the Community

The saying that you should listen to understand rather than to respond rings true for May Mobility’s onboarding phase with a new city.

“FAEs develop relationships with the customer and other stakeholders early on to really get to know them,” explains Austin Dillow, a May Mobility FAE who worked on the Arlington, TX, deployment among others. “We work closely over the course of two or three months to understand a community intimately, learning the existing pain points in a city’s transportation infrastructure, where a service is most needed and what that service should look like.” 

Dialogue between the local transportation authorities and various community stakeholders is important as FAEs define which roads the service will drive on to ensure the most effective route. Using a combination of this local input and public transit data, FAEs match potential routes with the service’s capabilities.

“We work to figure out what the best combination of roads, stops and routes is for the service that May can provide the community,” said Field Engineering Manager Jay Miles.

Testing the Route

Once a route has been roughly defined, FAEs map routes to fine tune the path. FAEs “learn by doing,” Miles says. In a manual process, FAEs go through mapping, testing, and refinement stages, driving the roads autonomously repeatedly to help ensure the autonomous technology is given the necessary inputs to operate on its own. Local conditions present unique challenges with different traffic rules and local driving quirks. For example, in some cities or states, aggressive left turns are common and expected. Likewise, in some areas pedestrians are more likely to wait for a crosswalk to turn in their favor, while in others pedestrians are likely to jump in at the first sign of an opening in traffic.

“We help our vehicle be able to infer what it needs to do and what other vehicles and pedestrians are going to do,” Miles explained. “By giving the vehicle that information, we’re able to allow the underlying behavioral algorithms to estimate not only what it needs to do to get to its next stop, but what a person in a car across an intersection is likely to do.” 

Adjusting to Perfection

Constant communication between the FAEs, the cities and other stakeholders ensures that FAEs are informing vehicles not only on current traffic patterns and data, but also anticipated changes — such as scheduled road construction or influxes in pedestrian traffic such as the return of students on college campuses.

When the route is finalized, FAEs work to help hire and train a new local team, and act as technical experts and resources to the new teams onsite. Once a deployment begins, FAEs stay onsite temporarily to ensure a smooth launch and to address any questions from the field team as well as local stakeholders. Once the transition to the local team is complete, FAEs remain in touch and work collaboratively to maintain the integrity of the geofenced operational areas, visiting sites on a regular schedule to collect data, solicit feedback and maintain strong relationships with the customer and local team. 

“After a successful initial deployment, we empower the local team to take over daily operations, while also staying in touch to ensure the deployment is successful for the entire duration of its lifespan,” Miles said. 

Arlington Deployment: Year-One Lookback and Renewal through 2024

We’re thrilled to announce that after a successful one-year pilot, Arlington RAPID has been renewed through 2024. 

Arlington RAPID is the first program in the U.S. to integrate on-demand, autonomous vehicles (AVs)  into an existing transportation service. Created in partnership with the City of Arlington, Via, and University of Texas at Arlington (UT Arlington) using May Mobility’s fleet, the service provided more than 28,000 rides in its first year to residents, university students and visitors around Downtown and the UT Arlington campus.

Arlington RAPID reported a 99 percent on-time performance, and our vehicles operated fully autonomously 80 percent of the time. With a 98 percent rider-satisfaction rating, it’s clear that the community embraced the pilot program.

“May Mobility and Arlington share a commitment to creating great transit through shared, on-demand autonomous vehicles,” said Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility. “May is excited to continue serving the Arlington community, and the learnings from this successful deployment will not only help advance our AV technology, but also enhance our service offerings at future sites around the world.”

Our proprietary AV technology, our Multi-Policy Decision Making (MPDM) system, is designed and implemented with the goal of transforming cities by making transportation safer, easier, more equitable and accessible. First-year results show that more than 60 percent of riders use RAPID to access essential destinations like medical facilities, school or employment opportunities, demonstrating that the service is filling critical transportation gaps and expands equitable access to transit across the city – directly in line with our goals and mission.

While the first year of service was made possible through a grant from the Federal Transit Administration, the deployment’s renewal is thanks to additional grant support from the North Central Texas Council of Governments. The new grant came through its AV program, which seeks to support and expand AV planning, testing and deployment in the region. RAPID was one of four projects selected in the program’s second round. The grant will allow RAPID to operate for two more years, as well as add vehicles with higher seating capacity and enable us to move further towards our goal of driver-out operations in the city.

“The North Texas Council of Governments is strongly supportive of efforts like Arlington’s RAPID service, provided by May Mobility, to advance automated transportation technology and provide the public with more and improved mobility options,” said Thomas Bamonte, NCTCOG’s senior program manager of transportation technology and innovation. “NCTCOG is pleased to support two additional years of RAPID and assist Arlington and May Mobility in making North Texas a center for automated transportation innovation.”

Check out the official renewal announcement here.

Want to catch a ride? Learn more about the route here.

May Mobility’s Tom Tang named on Insider’s list of Power Players in the self-driving-car industry

Our very own Tom Tang, chief people officer for May Mobility, made Insider’s list of autonomous vehicle (AV) industry Power Players, receiving recognition as an innovator and essential executive.

During his tenure at May, he has overseen a massive growth in our employee base, helped enhance and drive our culture, and embedded important priorities and processes, such as those for Pay-for-Performance Compensation and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging. We’re thrilled that Insider sees what we see, and asked Tom some questions about how he’s leaving his mark at May and in the broader AV space.

How does it feel to be named among the most powerful players in the AV space?

I feel very humbled! It’s an honor to be included and recognized alongside so many accomplished leaders in the industry.

Your role isn’t specific to the AV industry, yet it’s no less integral to our success. Can you help explain how talent and culture are key to  ensuring the long-term success of May? 

At May, our cars drive themselves but it’s our people who help propel us forward in the pursuit of our mission to transform cities through autonomous technology. As the race to deploy AVs at scale intensifies, so too does the competition for top talent and that’s where we believe our unique culture positions us for success. People join May because they want to have a real world impact. We’re building a better AV technology that works in the real world, and employees get to see how their contributions make a difference in the communities where we live and work. We also welcome and embrace those who represent the vibrancy of the cities where we operate. Our people are encouraged to bring their whole selves to work, and our workplaces (both on-site and virtual) are designed to foster belonging, connection and fun!

How do you hope to leave your mark on our company and industry? 

For me, May’s brand promise of “unlocking greater human potential” goes beyond just our customers and riders. It’s also a key part of the employee experience here. When someone joins us, I want them to know that we see their potential and believe they can do great things. We take the time to invest in their growth and development. We strive to provide them with a truly great manager. We want them to bring their own personal magic and passion, and we believe that—so long as the role allows for it—they can be successful from anywhere: onsite, remote or a hybrid of the two. When that same person leaves May, I want them to feel appreciated and to know that we are grateful for their contributions and impact. Most importantly, I want them to believe that their time at May was time well spent, and that we are proud of them and what they will go on to accomplish as a May alum.

Tom Tang enjoys lunch with colleagues at May Mobility’s headquarters.

Our employee base has tripled in your first 18 months. How would you say that’s affecting the culture and how is your team helping the company adjust to the boom? 

It’s been incredible to see how quickly we’ve grown in such a short amount of time, and how it’s had a positive effect on our culture and on our teams! By adding more people, we have been able to accelerate our rate of progress while distributing the workload better so people can achieve improved work-life-balance. At my last company, we experienced 20x full-time employee (FTE) growth in 3 years and I learned a lot of valuable lessons along the way, like the importance of investing early in programs such as Onboarding and Learning & Development. At May, we see our new hires bringing in a ton of valuable experience to their roles and to their teams; so it’s equally important for us to ensure that they are able to ramp up quickly, and that we are able to help capture valuable institutional knowledge and then pass that along to others.

You’ve said before that you aim to embed diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) into everything we do. What are a few of the strategies and tactics you’re using to that end? 

When it comes to DEI&B, I often see companies focus on Diversity first,  recruiting for diverse representation with an emphasis on junior roles that are seen as “easier” and help with the numbers that get reported out. I prefer doing the opposite because I don’t believe “filling a leaky bucket” is a sustainable approach, nor do I believe people are likely to join an organization if they don’t see themselves reflected within the leadership team first. 

At May, we gave ourselves a good hard look in the mirror and prioritized differently. We focus on  building: Equity in terms of our equitable compensation philosophy and our calibrated performance management processes; Inclusion by designing and leading an inclusive meetings framework; and a sense of Belonging for everyone here today with communities like our MayID employee resource group. In doing so, we help ensure that each new person who joins can do so knowing the diversity that they bring will be celebrated, recognized and supported.

What would you say to people considering careers in the AV space? To people considering careers at May? 

I think the engineering effort behind autonomous vehicles is the moonshot of our generation, which makes it such an exciting industry to be in. For anyone considering a career in the AV space, I highly recommend it! And there are so many important roles to play, both technical and non-technical. For example, right now May is looking for people to join the following teams: Autonomy, Business Development, Customer Operations, Finance, Hardware, Marketing, Product, Software, and Vehicle Engineering/Operations. Needless to say, we look forward to hearing from you!

 

Interested in a career at May? See how you can leave your mark on the AV industry on our careers page.

May Mobility continues to drive AV accessibility with update on Inclusive Design Challenge

On January 24th, May Mobility presented in USDOT’s virtual workshops alongside UMTRI for the Inclusive Design Challenge. Here’s an update on how our project is going and how you can watch a recording of the workshop.

 

We believe that autonomous travel must be accessible – not sometime in the future, but today. But we’re still thinking about what an even more accessible autonomous future looks like, especially when communities are ready for fully driverless vehicles.

 

Back in 2020, we were selected in a competitive process to participate in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Inclusive Design Challenge, working on a project called Independent Safety for Wheelchair Users in AVs. May’s project team includes the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI), United Spinal Association, BraunAbility, Feonix Mobility Rising, and the Ann Arbor Center for Independent Living (AACIL), which delivered an update in the virtual workshop series on January 24th

 

What do we mean by independent safety for wheelchair users? The cornerstone of the project is an integrated wheelchair seating station, and an independent wheelchair docking station and automated belt donning system. To this end, UMTRI is iterating previous prototypes of the Universal Docking Interface Geometry, or UDIG.

Three individuals stand inside a vehicle inspecting the wheelchair docking system.

Researchers and a focus group of experienced paratransit drivers test out the integrated wheelchair seating station.

The UDIG is a common geometry for connecting wheelchairs to vehicles, similar to what you would see with a truck-trailer hitch. When in place, the UDIG allows a wheelchair with compatible attachments to dock in any vehicle with appropriate anchors.

 

This isn’t a new idea: the concept has been around for 20 years. This project is a necessary next step that looks at what questions need to be asked and answered when the UDIG is implemented in an electric and autonomous vehicle. With the battery and technology, is there a tighter space to fit the UDIG? What needs to be moved around? What can the system replicate if an attendant is not present? 

 

We were able to answer some of these questions with a recent focus group with experienced paratransit drivers. Drivers from transit agencies in Minnesota, Nevada, and Michigan traveled to our office in Ann Arbor to get an overview of progress so far, a live demonstration, and to provide feedback. Their perspective will be extremely helpful as we go into full volunteer testing with wheelchair users, which will be the most beneficial part of stage two for our team.

Four individuals observe a vehicle's wheelchair onboarding ramp.

Focus group attendees observe the vehicle’s wheelchair onboarding ramp.

For the next few months, UMTRI researchers will evaluate usability and on-road comfort by working with up to 25 wheelchair users who will try out the UDIG system and give detailed feedback. After gathering this feedback, the team will adjust the solution to make it even better than before.

 

Work on projects like the Inclusive Design Challenge and with partners like UMTRI, United Spinal, and others helps us continue to unearth how AVs can bring the most value to communities.

 

To see the Inclusive Design Challenge team overviews of progress so far, you can watch the virtual workshop recording here using passcode N02C&CjM.

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.

May Mobility Case Story: Understanding Customer Success

May Mobility’s vision is to transform communities literally. From the way that people get around to the way cities are built, May Mobility wants to use safe, accessible and sustainable autonomous driving technologies to transform cities where:

  • you can sit outside at a cafe under a tree, and actually hear your friend over the calm flow of multi-modal traffic
  • you can rely on affordable and reliable transportation options over a personal vehicle, and
  • transportation is accessible, convenient, and serves everyone.

To do this, May Mobility works hand-in-hand with local municipalities and other stakeholders to ensure this city transformation doesn’t happen in a vacuum and to ensure our services aren’t forced. Many rideshare services, bikes, scooters and other mobility modes have dropped into a community overnight — often against their will, cementing a sour relationship between the company and its users.

That’s no way to transform a city.

At May Mobility, a constant theme is working with communities, not imposing ourselves on them. To us, customer success starts with service that is built on a collaborative foundation. 

What True Service Looks Like 

Our belief is that true service comes from understanding what our customers need. This understanding comes from observing, listening, and then partnering on solutions. Each community has different needs. Some communities are looking to build a mobility ecosystem, while others want to showcase innovation or simply reduce parking congestion. Many of our partners are in the process of defining their mobility needs for the future – what their community will look like in five years. 

AVO in autonomous vehicle in Ann Arbor, MI

An Autonomous Vehicle Operator (AVO) on route in an autonomous Lexus RX 450h vehicle in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

May is in a unique position in our industry because we have deployed autonomous services in multiple locations, domestically and internationally. 282,000 rides around the world give us a lot of experience. In each location, we have AVOs (Autonomous Vehicle Operators) who interact with and learn from our riders on a daily basis and in real-time.

We use that experience to help our customers understand all that is possible and collaborate with them to find the best solution for them that benefits the community. 

Our approach is simply “Here is what we can do – now what can we do with that to best benefit the communities we serve and the users of our services?” 

Ask – Don’t Anticipate

May Mobility takes an anthropological approach to learn how riders use different modes of transportation. We ask a lot of questions: where do people travel? Are people more likely to walk or bike? How often are buses running without passengers? We dig deep into the environment and study the behaviors of people in the community. We also employ members of the community to lend expertise.

This approach is quite different from others in the mobility space. Far too often, companies begin by offering an existing product or service in a new city. To the community, this can feel as though large corporations are forcing mobility services upon them — and we see the results. 

A lot of these services end up failing simply because they didn’t take the time to understand what the community wants or needs.

A woman exiting a May Mobility shuttle in front of the Arlington theater in Arlington, TX.

A rider in Arlington, TX, where residents have taken over 9,000 rides with the RAPID program. Photo by Anthony La Penna.

And because of this approach of doing things to cities, many communities now suffer from mobility pollution: they’re filled with a lot of different transportation solutions that they didn’t ask for and that aren’t being utilized — and shareholder dollars end up in the garbage.

Through May’s collaborative process, our partners may find our service to be a lower dollar per rider over the long term, which for a cutting edge service is an incredible feat and a testament to how we deploy the right service for communities by asking the right questions.

Co-Creating the Future

At May, we create unique value with each and every project – while our autonomous shuttles are a constant, our deployments all solve real-world transportation issues on behalf of communities. May has taken AV to the streets, and out of the labs and test tracks.   

Fishers, Indiana is a commuter city about 20 miles north of downtown Indianapolis. When we began working with our partners there, we needed to define the best way to incorporate shared mobility into a community that was car-heavy. Although many parking structures exist throughout the city, when we dug into the usage data, we noticed people used street parking instead. As we work with our partners to define the route, we will place shuttle stops in front of the parking structures to encourage people to use them and will replace several on-street parking spaces with stops as well. 

On the other hand, when May launched service in Indianapolis – the route included three IU Health stops: IU Pediatric Care, IU School of Dentistry and a stop near IU Hospital. Rather than create a service that was redundant to existing solutions, May identified areas where service is needed, which is the first step in creating value through first- and last-mile service.

At May, success is not simply providing our customers with a service or our riders with safety and comfort. We believe true success comes from creating a sustainable, long-term solution that impacts the community and improves people’s lives.  

A group of May Mobility employees in front of two Together in Motion shuttles.

May Mobility employees at the June 2021 launch of the Together in Motion Indianapolis service.

Getting to know May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson

For someone who built robots throughout undergrad, it never occurred to May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson that he could make a career out of robotics. After two false starts as a graduate student however, Olson took to the field, finding himself out on a boat in the Mediterranean helping with an autonomous submarine and then in the California desert working on MIT’s autonomous car for the DARPA Urban Challenge. 

Image of Edwin Olson with an autonomous submarine in 2002

Edwin Olson with the Bluefin Odyssey III autonomous submarine in 2002.

“On the DARPA Urban Challenge competition day, we hit the ‘go’ button and the car drove off into the distance, first disappearing around a corner, then its audible beeper fading away. Six nervous hours had passed when I heard the faintest whisper of our car’s beeper, growing louder and louder. It was an amazing feeling to hear the sound of that beeper that signaled our car had completed its mission and was almost home. I’ve been chasing that feeling ever since.”

Edwin Olson graduated with his PhD from MIT in 2008 and joined the faculty at the University of Michigan to continue his work on autonomous vehicles. While at the University of Michigan, he led the winning team in the 2010 Mobile Autonomous Ground-robotic International Competition (MAGIC) by developing a team of 14 robots that semi-autonomously explored and mapped a large-scale urban environment.

The winning team of semi-autonomous robots from the 2010 MAGIC competition.

He also worked with Ford on their autonomous vehicles before joining Toyota Research Institute as a co-director of autonomous driving.

While there were a number of research opportunities in robotics, the culmination of years spent in research left Edwin driven to develop autonomous technologies so they could solve real world problems.   

“I’ve always been less interested in proofs of concept and more interested in solving real-world problems,” shared Edwin. “I looked around and saw all these problem domains where robots were a solution to real problems that are important to society, and that’s what led to May Mobility. How do we take the technology that we have into the world and actually generate impact and improve people’s lives with it?”

Bringing Technology with Impact to May Mobility

With transportation inequity a noted and growing issue in the United States, Edwin co-founded May Mobility in 2017, focused on developing autonomous solutions that would have an immediate impact on solving the issue in heavily affected cities.

“Technology without impact is pointless,” said Edwin. “Yes, it’s interesting to make and operate a driverless vehicle. But what’s even more interesting is to use that technology to provide a service that reduces congestion, makes better use of space and over time, can change the way we live in cities with green spaces and affordable housing in place of traffic jams and parking lots.”

That clarity of mission has allowed May to focus on the transportation solutions needed today rather than trying to predict what might be possible years or decades down the road. It keeps the company driven to innovate solutions that will help people get to and from school, to the grocery store, to doctors appointments and jobs. 

Edwin Olson at the Together in Motion Indianapolis launch event in June of 2021. To read more about Together in Motion visit our webpage.

In order to have the most immediate impact, May prioritizes communities with the greatest transportation inequities and focuses on first and last mile routes. By collaborating with community and corporate partners, May creates autonomous solutions unique to each market.  

“Very poor equity exists in transportation, and it’s not for lack of trying on the community or city level,” said Edwin. “Many communities don’t have the tools they need to provide equitable and accessible transportation. That’s where May Mobility comes in – we bring new tools to the table that help them deliver transportation solutions that transform people’s lives.”

From Transactions to Transformations

After four years and more than 275,000 revenue-generating rides, what gets Edwin the most excited is hearing how May’s technologies have translated into real world changes for its riders. And despite leading a team of 200 May employees in 7 cities around the world, he remains active in solving problems and identifying mobility solutions that help transform cities.

“When you hear these stories about two-plus hour commutes being replaced with more work, more time with family or simply more time to rest, you realize we’re doing so much more than simply moving people to jobs, medical care or grocery stores. We’re expanding access to more and better opportunities that improve the daily lives, health, financial security and ultimately happiness of our riders,” said Edwin. “That’s the kind of impact that I get really excited about: hearing how what we are doing translates into better lives for everyday people.”