The Grand Rapids, Minn. service is accessible by design and will demonstrate how AVs reach their greatest impact when used for public transportation – even in rural, wintry settings
Sept. 28, 2022 (GRAND RAPIDS, MN) — Today, May Mobility, a leader in the development and deployment of autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, and Via, the global leader in TransitTech, will launch the first public transit project using American Disability Act (ADA)-compliant AVs in rural America.
The companies’ goal for the Grand Rapids, Minnesota project is to demonstrate that AVs reach their greatest societal impact when used for public transportation. The deployment will allow anyone to book a free, on-demand, shared ride from an AV. The project will also advance the deployments of AVs in rural terrains and diverse and sometimes harsh weather conditions.
“We’re passionate about making transportation better for everyone, and providing innovative, accessible transportation solutions to rural communities is a key next step in that journey,” said Edwin Olson, CEO for May Mobility. “May Mobility and Via are proud to bring cutting-edge technology and services to Grand Rapids with the first commercial fleet of Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS vehicles.”
“Via is proud to partner with May Mobility for the new Grand Rapids site launch, which advances our shared belief that AVs are most impactful when they are accessible, shared, and complementary to a community’s public transit system,” said Israel Duanis, Head of Autonomous Vehicles at Via. “Via is committed to supporting rural connectivity for riders of all needs. We believe that Grand Rapids will serve as a pioneer for how autonomous, innovative mobility can transform the way small communities move.”
May Mobility’s fleet in Grand Rapids will mark the first commercial launch of the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS platform, including the first ADA-compliant versions of the vehicle that the company announced earlier this year.
Powered by Via’s AI-based booking and routing algorithms, on-demand rides are available to anyone through the Via app (available on iOS and Android), which matches riders headed in the same direction into one vehicle to create efficient, flexible shared trips. Throughout the city, more than 70 pick-up and drop-off locations have been identified and established based on popular travel patterns and community input, which helped shape the service zone, hours of operation and other considerations. Riders without smartphones can also book by calling 211.
While rides are open to all, they are designed to serve those without a private car or who have mobility challenges — with the aim of using technology to help everyone achieve an independent lifestyle supported by convenient travel, regardless of income or ability.
This project will expand mobility access for the Grand Rapids community by complementing the town’s existing fixed-route bus lines and will cover nearly 17 square miles, allowing residents and visitors to easily connect with the city’s restaurants, grocery stores, pharmacies, churches, fitness centers, and more. The service will also provide coverage on weekday nights and weekends when other options aren’t available.
The deployment signifies another step forward for May Mobility and Via’s history of introducing AVs as public transportation to communities across the country and follows the launch of three other AV services in Arlington, Tex., Ann Arbor, Mich., and Grand Rapids, Mich. in 2021.
Via and May Mobility look forward to continuing to help cities and communities integrate autonomous vehicles into their public transit systems to expand access to safe, efficient, equitable and sustainable mobility.
The 18-month project, called “goMARTI,” was created, built and deployed with the support of the Minnesota Department of Transportation, the City of Grand Rapids, The PLUM Catalyst, 211 and Mobility Mania, among others.