Sun City is a planned community for “active retired adults.” Launching an unmanned microtransit service in this environment isn’t as flashy as putting robotaxis on the streets of San Francisco or autonomous transportation at Phoenix’s airport. However, thanks to this, the company expanded smoothly and avoided getting into trouble.
May’s strategy of partnering with cities to integrate autonomous microtransit services into existing public transportation also laid the groundwork for more challenging deployments in the future. Carlos Cruz Casas, chief innovation officer for the Miami-Dade County Department of Public Works, told TechCrunch that May Mobility, also in partnership with Via, will launch an on-demand shuttle service in Miami. Neither May Mobility nor Via responded to TechCrunch for confirmation.
Rival Cruise Corp. launched an unmanned robotaxi fleet in Miami before towing its entire fleet after a pedestrian was hit and dragged by one of its General Motors-backed vehicles in October. Remember, we started testing in just one day. Cruise subsequently had its license to operate in California suspended and last week laid off 900 employees and several executives.
By keeping its head down and deploying small, May has so far been able to expand without major disruption. The company operates shuttles to designated stops on campus and along fixed routes in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Arlington, Texas. Most recently, May partnered with Via to launch an on-demand service in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A Grand Rapids customer can summon his one of May’s Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS AVs from within a designated geofenced area.
Steve Miller, a risk management consultant specializing in self-driving cars at the U.S. Insurance Bureau, told TechCrunch that more controlled, low-speed shuttles and on-demand services like those offered by May and competitor Veep are on the horizon. He said he expected that. Beep operates self-driving shuttles to provide transportation for residents of the Lake Nona community in Florida and public transportation in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. Beep also provides transportation for guests at Disney’s Celebration Resort and Wilderness Lodge Resort.
“What we’re seeing as we’re talking about commercial deployment is that the industry is really focused on trucking and shuttle transportation, like Veep and May Mobility-type shuttles.” said Miller, noting that the development of Level 2 advanced driver assistance software for OEMs is important. It’s also trending in AV startups. “And the reason these two are in the lead is because they both have the advantage of being in a defined operational domain. They’re in a controlled environment. That’s what makes robotaxis difficult. The problem is that there are many edge cases that cannot be modeled at this time.”
Meanwhile, May said the company’s multi-policy decision-making system is well-equipped to deal with edge cases. According to the company, the system “runs real-time onboard simulations to analyze thousands of possible scenarios every second and select and execute the safest scenario.”
Miller also said that today’s funding environment encourages companies to focus on sustainability around their core business rather than achieving moonshot goals. In November, May raised $105 million, bringing its total funding up to $300 million.
“With so many cities and municipalities in the U.S. and so many transportation subsidies, we’re going to see more shuttle-type operations,” Miller said. “So I think we’re going to see interest from cities, airports, transportation hubs. There’s a lot of opportunity to connect to mass transit, and I think that’s pretty lucrative.”
Suncity unmanned operation begins
May Mobility’s first passenger-only service in Sun City will request a “select group of initial passengers” to be picked up or dropped off in one of the company’s Autono-MaaS minivans from various stops, according to the company. It is said to give an opportunity.
The free service will initially operate on public roads from 4pm to 6pm, Monday to Friday. A company spokesperson said expansion was imminent but depended on May’s careful and thoughtful approach to safety, passenger feedback and community trust.
Passengers can book on-demand rides through May Mobility’s app, available on Google Play and the Apple App Store. Residents interested in becoming early riders can apply online.