May Mobility and Via have launched autonomous vehicle services in three cities

By Dean Takahashi, VentureBeat

May Mobility and Via have launched autonomous vehicle services in three cities in the past eight months to beef up public transit.

The companies have launched on-demand self-driving car services in Arlington, Texas; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Ann Arbor, Michigan. The companies say that shows how quickly autonomous vehicle (AV) service can be scaled up to augment public transportation in cities where there aren’t enough buses, subways, or other services.

May Mobility makes self-driving vehicles, and Via offers its TransitTech service that enables the cars to be used for public transportation. They launched the autonomous vehicle service, dubbed Rapid, in Arlingon in March 2021, and it has surpassed 20,000 rides to date.

The cars take passengers from designated pickup points and drop them off at destinations such as downtown Arlington and the University of Texas at Arlington. And before that, the city replaced its fixed bus lines in 2017 with on-demand microtransit, with human drivers serving the city of 400,000 residents. It can also offer door-to-door service for those with limited mobility.

Above: May Mobility and Via provide self-driving car public transit in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Image Credit: Via

The services in Grand Rapids and Ann Arbor, which launched in August and October 2021, respectively, both also continue to grow in ridership month-by-month.

“At Via, we believe that for autonomous vehicles to reach their full potential as part of large-scale transit networks, they must be on-demand, dynamically routed, and shared,” said Cariann Chan, senior vice president of business at Via. “Our three services with May Mobility demonstrate how launching highly-customized, public AV services using a common software platform is possible for a variety of use cases and geographies.”

May Mobility and Via provide on-demand, dynamically-routed, shared AV services. Each of the three services in the cities is customized to meet the needs of the city and the community it serves. Each service has provided efficient and equitable driverless transportation services — demonstrating how AVs reach their full potential when they are deployed as part of mass transit, the companies explained.

“May has a strong vision on how shared autonomous vehicles can be deployed to complement existing transit and bring value to communities,” said Shana Downs, director of sales and channel management at May Mobility, in a statement. “Utilizing Via’s technology has helped us take that vision to the next level and continue our track record of bringing tangible benefits to riders and communities today.”

Data collected from the city of Arlington’s Rapid service to date illustrates that when AVs are deployed as part of mass transit and scaled efficiently, they can serve as an accessible, convenient way to travel. More than 60% of riders use Rapid to get to essential destinations including work, school, medical places, or shopping.

An overwhelming amount — nearly 90% — of riders agreed or strongly agreed they would ride Rapid again in the future, with a vast majority agreeing that booking their trip and boarding the autonomous vehicle with Via’s rider app and in-vehicle passenger screen was easy.

After riding RAPID, 80% of riders agreed or strongly agreed that AVs can increase the convenience of travel.

Above: May Mobility’s self-driving car. Image Credit: May Mobility

The 20,000-rides milestone in Arlington comes one year after Via and May Mobility announced their partnership in November 2020. The collaboration aims to extend both companies’ reach into on-demand autonomous mobility on a global scale.

The partnership involves integrating Via’s TransitTech software into May Mobility’s existing autonomous vehicles’ platform to support fleet management, booking, routing, passenger and vehicle assignment, and rider experience.

Via and May Mobility look forward to continuing to help cities and communities introduce autonomous vehicle networks as a way to expand access to efficient, equitable, and sustainable public transportation across the country.

Founded in 2012, Via pioneered the TransitTech category by using new technologies to develop public mobility systems — optimizing networks of buses, shuttles, wheelchair-accessible vehicles, school buses, autonomous vehicles, and electric vehicles around the globe.

Via’s aim is to build the most efficient, equitable, and sustainable transportation network for all riders — including those with limited mobility, those without smartphones, and unbanked populations. It has more than 500 partnerships around the world.

May Mobility’s vehicles have given more than 300,000 autonomous rides to date. The company had challenges in the past, but the recent results with Via are encouraging.