Mcity supports new autonomous shuttle service in Ann Arbor

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A free, autonomous shuttle service available to the general public will offer an easier way to get from the Diag to South Campus or other points in Ann Arbor starting Oct. 11.

A2GO is a project led by University of Michigan spinoff May Mobility with support from Mcity, U-M’s public-private mobility research partnership.

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It will operate 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with a fleet of five autonomous, shared, on-demand vehicles. The fleet includes four hybrid-electric Lexus RX 450h vehicles that can carry three passengers, and one Polaris GEM fully electric vehicle with capacity for one wheelchair passenger.

The service covers a 2.64-square-mile area connecting Kerrytown with downtown Ann Arbor, U-M’s Central and South campuses, the State Street corridor and other areas of downtown. Riders will access A2GO through the May Mobility app, available by searching for May Mobility on the Apple App store and Google Play.

Map of A2GO service area in Ann Arbor
This map shows the A2GO service area in Ann Arbor. Click the image to view a larger version in your browser window.

“Mcity is excited to be a partner in bringing A2GO to Ann Arbor,” said Mcity Associate Director Greg McGuire. “If we want to build the safer, greener, more accessible world we’re all striving for, learning by doing is essential. A2GO takes Mcity from an academic lab to a living lab and will help us learn what we should be thinking about next.”

A2GO is funded in part through a Michigan Economic Development Corp. grant program that enables mobility companies to deploy their technologies in the state. In addition to Mcity and MEDC, other A2GO partners include Ann Arbor SPARK, !important Safety Technologies, 4M, and the state of Michigan’s Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. 

“The deployment of A2GO exemplifies Michigan’s leadership and innovation in public-private partnerships to facilitate long-lasting change within our mobility ecosystem,” said Trevor Pawl, the state’s chief mobility officer. “We are excited to see the results of this pilot in the Ann Arbor community.”

Data collection is an essential element of Mcity’s involvement in A2GO, McGuire said. Using data from the vehicles, infrastructure and riders, Mcity will be able to build data sets for use by U-M researchers, Mcity industry members, and others. These could lead to pedestrian safety initiatives, for example, or improve vehicle decision-making and perception algorithms.

May Mobility will survey riders about their experience with A2GO, building on the findings of consumer research conducted a few years ago by global market research firm J.D. Power as part of the Mcity Driverless Shuttle project.

A photo of an A2GO vehicle in front of an iconic downtown mural along Liberty Street.
One of five vehicles in the A2GO autonomous shuttle fleet parked at the corner of Liberty Street and State Street in downtown Ann Arbor, in front of the mural depicting famous writers. (Photo by Eugene Brown, May Mobility)

The Mcity shuttle launched in June 2018, just months after two high-visibility fatal crashes involving partially automated vehicles in Arizona and California triggered a national decline in public trust of automated vehicles. Mcity’s shuttle research wrapped up in late 2019. The vast majority of riders surveyed — 86 percent — said they trusted the technology after riding in the vehicle, as did 66 percent of nonriders surveyed.

Another exciting aspect of A2GO for Mcity is its accessibility, McGuire said. An autonomous transportation option will be available to more Ann Arbor residents and visitors, including riders with disabilities, than was possible when Mcity operated its early-technology driverless shuttle service along a limited, fixed route on North Campus.

A2GO is on-demand, the fleet includes a wheelchair-accessible vehicle, and the service area covers nearly 3 square miles of the city.

“When people have access to a good, comprehensive transportation network — bus, ride-hail service, scooter, bike, whatever it is — and feel confident they can get where they need to go without relying only on their own vehicle, commuting could look very different than it does today,” McGuire said. “Less congestion, fewer crashes, cleaner air, better quality of life. A2GO is a step toward that vision.”

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