Self-Driving Senior Shuttles Coming to Detroit

By Joe Guillen, Axios

Self-driving shuttles for older people and those with disabilities should be available in the city late next year.

Driving the news: City Council approved a $2.5 million contract last week with Ann Arbor-based May Mobility to provide free autonomous rides to the store, doctor’s office or other places for people 65 and older and those living with disabilities.

Why it matters: The project advances Detroit’s goal of being a leader in transportation innovation and should supplement the city’s troubled paratransit program.

State of play: Vehicle safety testing and development of the service’s mobile app starts this fall. Shuttles are expected to be available in spring 2024.

  • Research for the project began last year and is funded through 2026 with the help of a federal automated driving grant.
  • Ford and Mobileye are also exploring autonomous vehicles here, according to BridgeDetroit.

How it works: Riders will be able to book shuttles for daily transit needs on-demand or in advance through a mobile app, website or by phone.

  • Rides will be available in two different zones — one north of downtown and the other covering southeast neighborhoods, per Bridge.
  • Human operators will chaperone rides during the project to familiarize users with the technology and to assist riders getting on or off the shuttle.

What they’re saying: Tim Slusser, the city’s chief of mobility innovation, says the project will help solve transportation obstacles and build public trust in self-driving technology.

  • “We want Detroiters to feel safe and well-informed riding on and sharing the road with autonomous vehicles,” he said in a statement.

What’s next: Community outreach to finalize service routes begins this fall.