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May Mobility expands autonomous shuttle rides into Grand Rapids Westside neighborhoods

May Mobility black Lexus autonomous shuttle photo
Sarah Perry
May Mobility
May Mobility autonomous shuttle

Since 2019, May Mobility has provided over 80,000 autonomous shuttle rides along a fixed route in downtown Grand Rapids. The emerging technology now takes a leap to the West Side neighborhood providing free, on-demand, point-to-point service.

“You can sit upfront…feel free.” “You sure?”

I climb into the black Lexus SUV with its distinguished green and white May Mobility logos. Perched on its rooftop, a white and blue sensor. It’s what reads the route.

“We basically map the whole thing with laser lidar.” That’s Joel Herd, he’s a field autonomy engineer with May Mobility. He tells us GPS tells the car where it is on the earth and the lidar places it within 10 centimeters accuracy on the route. That limits drifting, providing safety to the general public.

“It basically creates like a picture deck of places it’s been before that it can scan through once it’s out on the route to get a better sense of where exactly am I of all the places I’ve been in the past.”

Just like your brain processes past experiences – and – new ones.

I ask, “So, does the car know that that gentleman is on the corner?”

The answer, “It does. Absolutely. So, it recognizes that he was there. It was waiting to see if that gentleman was going to cross or not? It saw that he wasn’t and then we went ahead and made the turn.”

As the technology advances, May Mobility is moving into Phase 2 on the city’s Westside. That’s where riders can book a free, on-demand ride with the May Mobility app.

“You’re able to book a ride from point A to point B as opposed to having to stay on a fixed route.”

Nina Grooms Lee is Chief Product Officer at May Mobility.

“That makes the transportation offering more efficient for our riders.”

And it’s an opportunity for stretching the lidar technology - exploring new terrain on the city’s Westside.

Exploring the interior is Zeeland-based automotive supplier and innovator Gentex Corporation.

“It is a living, driving laboratory.”

Craig Piersma is Director of Marketing and Corporate Communications for Gentex. It’s incorporating a sensor pod for in-cabin monitoring using a machine vision camera.

“Are people properly restrained? If the car was made for two people did they try to squeeze four in? If an infant was brought in in a car seat was it appropriately set up? So, the focus really is keeping the passenger safe.”

Eventually, sensor will be installed determining environmental air quality.

The end goal is developing all the software necessary for launching truly autonomous vehicles.

You can book your free ride on the May Mobility app.

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