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May Mobility at APTA: 3 takeaways for the future of transportation

Learn more about how transportation is evolving with our top 3 takeaways from our time at APTA Expo 2023.

Good transportation is foundational to quality of life and nowhere is that better understood than at the world’s largest public transportation showcase, APTA EXPO. As we walked the floor, attended speaking events, gave demo rides and talked with visitors at our booth, we were able to share this passion with so many like-minded individuals.

Since it ended, I’ve been reflecting on the many things we observed and learned during our time at APTA. The future is bright in the transportation industry, but there are definitely some hurdles to get over as we work to improve mobility across the board.

Here are my top three takeaways from the show:

1. Autonomous vehicles could help overcome the COVID slump

As we all know, the COVID-19 pandemic caused upheaval around the globe. So many industries were hit hard and public transportation wasn’t spared. Fast forward a couple of years and public transit is now finding itself in a severe recruiting, retention and retirement crisis. According to the 2023 APTA Transit Workforce Shortage Synthesis Report, 43 percent of current transit employees are eligible for retirement and this is while agencies struggle to hire young talent. Unfortunately, these staffing shortages will continue to reduce coverage and frequency, negatively impacting the people who need public transportation the most.

I'm optimistic about the future and hope that the industry will be able to turn things around; but in the meantime, we need solutions, and the sooner the better. At May Mobility, we believe autonomous vehicles (AVs) are one of those solutions. And more specifically, autonomous microtransit. Not only does the autonomous vehicle industry open up new and interesting job opportunities, but the integration of autonomous microtransit into our public transit systems can help fill in the gaps where other transportation options cannot efficiently or effectively reach.

2. Equitable and accessible options are critical

Public transportation is key to the livelihood of so many people around the globe. And yet, in the U.S., many of the people who need it the most are the ones unable to access it. Whether because of age, a low income or a mobility-limiting disability, there is a large portion of the U.S. population that needs public transportation to give them access to work, healthcare, grocery stores and social opportunities.

Improving transportation equity is one of the highest priorities of transit agencies across the nation and the topic came up multiple times during meetings and presentations. Slowly, but surely, transit agencies are realizing the potential benefits of integrating AVs to help deliver more accessible transportation to those who need it. We’ve already seen the great impact of our wheelchair-accessible vehicles in rural Grand Rapids, Minnesota and are looking forward to potentially seeing healthcare improvements in Contra Costa County, Calif. and Detroit, Mich. when we launch those AV deployments over the next year. We know from experience that autonomous vehicles are a great option for improving transportation equity and are consistently looking for ways to bridge the gap even further.

3. Adopting new technologies will improve transit systems

One of my favorite things to see when walking around APTA is all of the innovative ideas to help advance mobility systems. From rider experience to safety and security, there are some brilliant minds at work within the industry. One of the central themes was environmental sustainability as the industry looks to shift toward electric vehicles and new operating models that promote vehicle efficiencies. This was accompanied by an overall push toward green and carbon-neutral advancements.

It was also nice to see new technologies to help automate transit systems. Autonomous vehicles are still relatively new in the transportation space, but there is so much innovation happening. We saw a wide range of products aimed at improving AV efficiency, safety and comfort, such as computer vision systems, processing capabilities and rider experience displays. It was impressive to see a great number of accessibility-focused efforts aimed at improving rider access. With all of the work being put into autonomous vehicle technology today, we will be seeing some outstanding improvements over the next few years.

One of my favorite parts of the show was the opportunity to help many attendees take their first autonomous vehicle ride. It was a joy to see their eyes light up as we discussed their experience afterward. The response was overwhelmingly positive and the experience helped those people attain a better understanding of the benefits of adopting autonomous technology into our transit systems and they hopefully walked away more excited about our vision for a better future.

Talking with people from so many backgrounds, nationalities and experiences, one thing stood out most of all: we must all work together to develop a better transportation experience. There is no “one solution” to overcoming the obstacles we face toward improved mobility and we all have a different piece of the puzzle. Here at May Mobility, the solution we offer your communities and businesses is autonomous microtransit. There is so much good to be accomplished through AVs and working together, we aim to solve your unique transportation gaps and challenges.

About the Author

David Carroll is the director of sales and business development for May Mobility where his team is bringing autonomous vehicle technology to campuses, airports and healthcare organizations around the world. Starting his career in higher education and pivoting to tech, Caroll has been able to solve transportation problems by helping organizations adopt innovative technology from shared electric micromobility to AVs. Caroll enjoys sharing how technology can improve the lives of all people and working with partners to solve problems and drive operational efficiency.

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