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USA: North Texas City Embraces AVs as Other Areas Tap Brakes

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Arlington is making up some of the ground with its unique program in the downtown area, while some cities and businesses are backing away from the dangers posed by intelligent driving technology.

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On December 8, 2023, site autonomy engineer Chris Hollwedel from May Mobility, an autonomous vehicle service in Arlington, Texas, shows off its Arlington RAPID ( Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration ) autonomous car. The University of Texas at Arlington, May Mobility, Via, and the City of Arlington have joined forces to provide the service.

TNS Juan Figueroa

After General Motors robot-taxi unit, Cruise, stumbled out of the gate when its CEO stepped down after its cars were removed from Dallas roads in late October and GM withdrew its investment, dreams of autonomous vehicles in Downtown Dallas seem farther away than ever.

However, where Dallas is failing, its neighbor to the west is making up for it. The city has implemented AVs from downtown to the University of Texas at Arlington’s campus using the Rideshare, Automation, and Payment Integration Demonstration Program, which is powered by Ann Arbor, Michigan-based May Mobility.

According to Rob Carter, May Mobility’s customer operations manager, the Midwest AV company began offering its services in Arlington in March 2021 with the goal of educating people about the concept of autonomous vehicles sharing the same roads as cars with drivers.

He said,”I just want people to go for a ride and see how they like it.” ” While working outside of school, I took a class in self-driving technology while I was working in business, and I became interested in what lay ahead for the automotive industry.” I hope this also piques people’s interest.

During each ride, May Mobility’s fleet of four Toyota Sienna minivans makes use of the business ‘ multi-policy decision-making technology on its predetermined route network. It implies that the car’s seven cameras and five sensors are deciding its second course of action by running thousands of simulations on well-traveled roads.

After closing its Series C funding round, which brought in$ 111 million for the company, May Mobility moved to Siennas in 2022 with a fleet of four Lexus RX 450h SUVs and an energy PolarisGEM. With a$ 67 million investment last month, Toyota also supported May Mobility.

According to Carter, the company sees 150 to 200 riders per day on average, with the majority of them UTA students. May Mobility has provided about 45, 000 rides since it launched, according to the company’s most recent estimates.

The program is completely for UTA staff and students. For anyone else, it costs$ 3 per ride. To make a ride reservation, people can use the May Mobility app from Monday through Friday from 8 am to 8 pm.

May Mobility does n’t run on a typical commercial model, in contrast to Cruise. Otherwise, it is gaining from the Federal Transit Administration’s$ 1.7 million grant and its collaboration with the university, the city, and the New York City-based Via Transportation, which powers the app for the company.

According to Carter, May Mobility does n’t need to scrape together money from its fares to make a profit.

” We run on grants.” We are n’t actually collecting the fare, he claimed. The fare goes to the city, and Via is assisting with the app. Depending on the various types of grants that are applicable, our business end is being used as public transportation with local or federal funding.

One of the reasons May Mobility chose to establish operations in Arlington is the city’s notoriously subpar public transportation system, according to Carter.

According to him,” We’ve heard a lot of stories about people not having access to public transportation, and Arlington’s move to Via was truly exceptional for providing ridesharing to make up for what the city was lacking.” We are the ones who show up, but being on Via’s platform as their intelligent option is excellent.

Given that safety concerns played a role in Cruise’s demise, May Mobility is attempting to prevent the exact errors by moving its rides quickly, Carter said.

Because we place a high priority on safety, we always have someone behind the wheel, he said. ” 30 miles per hour is our best speed in autonomy.” Simply put, we’re gradually increasing the speeds we use.

May Mobility emphasizes its safety program even though you’ll rarely see one of its vehicles on a freeway, according to Carter. Every time a company releases fresh software, it must first go through tens of thousands of simulations. Federal training safety programs, which are similar to those used by truck drivers across the nation, are even required for the company’s AV operators.

However, it has n’t quite been flawless. Smaller fender benders have been observed by the company across the nation, but Carter said this is to be expected as people and technology become more adept at sharing roads.

There will always be instances where there have been small mishaps, he declared. ” We cautiously take turns and come to full stops at stop signs.” In order to know not to rush, get around us, or do anything else, I believe people are becoming accustomed to how our cars drive.

With Cruise out of the way, Dallas might be one of May Mobility’s second locations, according to Carter. The business is already active in Sun City, Arizona, Grand Rapids, Minnesota, and Arlington, Ann Arbor.

“New cities and new operations will be announced more soon, which is great to see,” he said. ” We’re going to increase our testing to see how far a human operator can take our technology.”

But for the time being, the company’s main objective is to spread the name of May Mobility.

He stated that “we need to broaden our reach and inform the general public of what we’re doing.” ” We’re seeing students really love it, and the ridership here has been fantastic.” Therefore, it’s all about making money off of the appropriate people who want to ride with us.

 

Viktor Musil

Victor Musil, pen name for Edouard Py, advocates for inclusive, people-centered city development. His work underscores the importance of ethical considerations and equitable access, shaping the discourse on urban innovation worldwide.

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