May Mobility in Ann Arbor and Via in New York will launch the first transit project using American Disability Act (ADA) compliant AVs in rural Grand Rapids, Minn.
The companies’ goal for the project is to demonstrate that AVs achieve their greatest societal impact when used for public transport. The rollout will allow anyone to book a free, on-demand, shared ride from an AV. The project will also advance AV deployments in rural terrain and diverse and sometimes harsh weather conditions.
“We are passionate about improving transportation for everyone, and providing innovative and accessible transportation solutions to rural communities is a key next step in that journey,” said Edwin Olson, CEO of 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.”
May Mobility’s Grand Rapids fleet will mark the first commercial launch of the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS platform, including the first ADA-compliant versions of the vehicle the company announced earlier this year.
“Via is proud to partner with May Mobility for the launch of the new Grand Rapids site, which advances our shared belief that AVs have the most impact when they are accessible, shared and complementary to the transportation system in of a community,” said Israel Duanis, head of autonomous vehicles at Via. “Via is committed to supporting rural connectivity for riders of all needs. We believe Grand Rapids will serve as a pioneer in how autonomous and innovative mobility can transform the way small communities get around.
Powered by Via’s AI-powered booking and routing algorithms, on-demand rides are available to everyone via the Via app (available on iOS and Android), which matches passengers heading in the same direction in a single vehicle to create efficient and flexible shared journeys. Across the city, more than 70 pick-up and drop-off locations were identified and established based on popular travel habits and community feedback, which helped shape the service area, hours of openness and other considerations. Passengers without smartphones can also book by calling 211.
Although the rides are open to everyone, they are designed to serve those without a private car or with mobility issues – with the aim of using technology to help everyone achieve a supported independent lifestyle through convenient travel, regardless of income or ability.
This project will expand mobility access for the Grand Rapids community by supplementing the city’s existing fixed-route bus routes and will cover nearly 17 square miles, allowing residents and visitors to easily connect to restaurants, grocery stores , pharmacies, churches, city fitness centers. , and more. The service will also provide coverage on weeknights and weekends when other options are not available.