Michigan startup May Mobility today announced that it has been chosen by the state of Ohio to begin testing a self-driving shuttle service on the streets of Columbus.
The fleet of six-seat electric shuttles will begin running without passengers this week while May Mobility maps and tests a 2-3 mile route through downtown Columbus. The company expects to start adding passengers on December 1. For the first year of service, the shuttles will be free to the public and will run 7 days a week from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST.
The Ohio Department of Transportation’s DriveOhio project, alongside Smart Columbus and The Ohio State University, put out a request for proposals (RFPs) in July to identify a technology partner who could deploy, operate, and maintain a series of self-driving shuttles, and May Mobility fit the bill.
DriveOhio is a project that aims to encourage the development of autonomous and connected vehicle projects within the state of Ohio, while Smart Columbus is a smart city initiative that resulted from Columbus winning the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Smart City Challenge in 2016. Columbus received a $40 million grant from the U.S. DOT, as well as a $10 million grant from Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s philanthropic foundation in order to make infrastructure investments. Those grants are supporting the testing of May Mobility’s self-driving shuttle.
“Cities are seeking cost-effective transportation services that will improve congestion in urban cores, and self-driving shuttles can offer a huge relief,” May Mobility founder and CEO Edwin Olson said in a press release.
“We’re proud to have the first self-driving shuttle in Ohio being tested on the streets of Columbus,” Columbus mayor Andrew J. Ginther said in a statement. “This pilot will shape future uses of this emerging technology in Columbus and the nation.
Founded in 2017 and headquartered in Ann Arbor, May Mobility counts investments from the likes of BMW, Toyota, and Y Combinator. The company‘s self-driving shuttles are currently running in Detroit, where they have conducted 10,000 trips since being deployed at the end of June. The Detroit deployment is conducted in partnership with Dan Gilbert’s real estate firm Bedrock. The fleet carries employees from Bedrock and Quicken Loans — another one of Gilbert’s companies — between parking garages and downtown office buildings and to events.
May Mobility business development lead Ben Thompson told VentureBeat in an email that the company plans to announce another partnership in Michigan next week and is targeting partnerships in other states in the coming months. The company’s competitors in the self-driving shuttle sector include Drive.AI, Navya, and Coast Autonomous — not to mention Waymo, Apple, and other large automobile manufacturers who are testing their own autonomous vehicles.