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A Short Status Report From One of Many AV Shuttle Pilots

May Mobility is one in the line of many actors testing and developing AV shuttles for first/last-mile purposes. Their 8km route in Providence U.S. has ten stops, where six electric five-seated vehicles are carrying an average of 150 riders a day. [1]

Safety drivers still control the vehicles about 30% of the time, according to Peter Alviti, director of the Rhode Island Department of Transportation. Because they obey speed limits and strictly follow traffic rules, the shuttles are frequently honked at or passed. “We’ve learned a lot about human drivers in Providence since we launched, and they are exceptionally aggressive,” says Alisyn Malek, chief operating officer at May Mobility. She predicts their vehicles to be “fully autonomous” in the 2020s, in limited corridors, stating that a lot comes down to the road network.

Interestingly, both co-founders Malek and Steve Vozar are stepping down from their positions in May Mobility’s senior management, following a recent $50 million investment round with Toyota as the largest investor [2]. 

Personal comments

My experience is that AV technology, in general, is on the way down along the famous hype-curve, demonstrated by the recent withdraws from the bold promises by OEM:s and tech providers. This might be a little discouraging but also welcome as it marks a shift to a more objective and informed development process. The AV shuttle initiatives specifically could be more prepared to deal with continued limitations with the technology as these actors are used to be creative in trying to find the best current match between use-cases and technology. One question that is hard to get away from is how much we are ready to groom and adapt the traffic environment (and policy) in order to reach potential low hanging fruits with the current and near-future AV functionality.        

 

Written by Victor Malmsten Lundgren, RISE.

 

Sources

1. 2020-02-01. Are self-driving cars a solution for transit? A Providence test shows their promise and challenges.

2. 2020-01-31. Self-driving shuttle startup May Mobility shakes up senior management