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May Mobility

Autonomous shuttles land in downtown Detroit

They'll start out shuttling employees from parking garages to the office.

Starting today, autonomous shuttles will join the traffic fray in downtown Detroit.

May Mobility, an Ann Arbor-based startup, launched its first commercial self-driving electric shuttle service in the Motor City. The program is a partnership between May Mobility and Bedrock, a real estate firm that's part of Dan Gilbert's Quicken Loans empire.

The shuttles are built just up the road in Troy.

May Mobility

The public won't be able to hop on, though. The six-seat shuttles are for Bedrock employees, moving them between the Bricktown Parking Garage and its downtown Detroit offices in a 1-mile loop. It will replace the human-driven shuttle buses that currently operate on this loop, and it'll run on weekdays from 5 a.m. to midnight. For safety's sake, attendants will be present in the shuttles as they start moving people to and fro, and those attendants will have the ability to stop the vehicle, if need be.

May Mobility didn't just hope for the best when putting its shuttles on the road. The company went through a long period of mapping and testing the route block-by-block. Quicken employees took a spin last October as part of a trial, and May Mobility said it's working to implement the feedback it received, including a request for cup holders.

The AV startup just opened a new office in Detroit's Corktown neighborhood, which is where the firm will provide support for its vehicles, as well as taking care of storing and charging. Eventually, the company hopes to expand its service to accommodate more people and more routes in more cities, so Detroit is just the beginning.

"Our technology allows us to provide fully-managed transportation services that outperform traditional services on wait time, rider satisfaction, and other metrics," said Edwin Olson, CEO and co-founder of May Mobility, in a statement. "By improving the lives of Bedrock's employees and tenants, we move closer to our vision that everyone uses May Mobility every day."

It'll be interesting to see how well these shuttles handle iffy-quality roads. There seems to be a fair bit of travel in that suspension.

May Mobility