The advancement of autonomous technology continues with the development of two programs in smaller markets. On Sept. 28, a rural autonomous vehicle program started service in Grand Rapids, Minn., while in northeast Ohio, Western Reserve Transit Authority (WRTA) selected its partners that will launch a pilot AV program.
This 18-month project, known as goMARTI, is designed to expand mobility access for the Grand Rapids community by complementing the town’s existing fixed-route bus lines and will cover nearly 17 square miles. The service will also provide coverage on weekday nights and weekends when other options aren’t available. The aim of the service is to use technology to help those with mobility challenges achieve an independent lifestyle.
The companies’ state that the goal for the goMARTI project is to demonstrate that AVs reach their greatest societal impact when used for public transportation. The deployment will allow anyone to book a free, on-demand, shared ride from an AV. The project will also advance the deployments of AVs in rural terrains and diverse and sometimes harsh weather conditions.
May Mobility’s fleet in Grand Rapids will mark the first commercial launch of the Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS platform, including the first ADA-compliant versions of the vehicle.
“We’re passionate about making transportation better for everyone, and providing innovative, accessible transportation solutions to rural communities is a key next step in that journey,” said Edwin Olson, CEO for May Mobility. “May Mobility and Via are proud to bring cutting-edge technology and services to Grand Rapids with the first commercial fleet of Toyota Sienna Autono-MaaS vehicles.”
Via’s AI-based booking and routing algorithms will match riders headed in the same direction to create flexible shared trips to more than 70 pick-up and drop-off locations throughout Grand Rapids.
“Via is proud to partner with May Mobility for the new Grand Rapids site launch, which advances our shared belief that AVs are most impactful when they are accessible, shared, and complementary to a community’s public transit system,” said Israel Duanis, head of Autonomous Vehicles at Via. “Via is committed to supporting rural connectivity for riders of all needs. We believe that Grand Rapids will serve as a pioneer for how autonomous, innovative mobility can transform the way small communities move.”
“WRTA is excited to work with the cutting-edge technology developed by the experts and professionals at First Transit, Perrone Robotics and GreenPower Motor Company. We’re proud that our team was selected to host the first AV pilot announced in Northeast Ohio,” said Dean Harris, WRTA executive director. “We’re excited to play an active role in bringing AV and zero-emission vehicles to the Mahoning Valley, a.k.a, ‘Voltage Valley.’”
The WRTA AV pilot will feature a 12-passenger shuttle that will operate along a route connecting Youngstown’s Transit Center, Mercy Hospital and Youngstown State University. The zero-emission GreenPower Motor Company EV Star shuttle will meet all ADA and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Perrone Robotics will install its proprietary TONY (TO Navigate You) autonomy kit and First Transit will provide all operations and maintenance for the WRTA AV pilot, including onboard attendants to ensure the vehicle's safe operation.