We’ve been hearing about them for years, now Grand Rapids has a pilot program to provide free driverless rides now with a new on demand option. They replaced current low speed shuttles with brand new Lexus RX 450 SUVs this month, which currently serve passengers along the current DASH West bus route in the downtown area.
They are driverless vehicles, which will also always have an attendant in the vehicle to drive the vehicle when necessary. Soon you will be able to request a ride with your phone once the DASH west route ends in late July to make way for the on-demand model. They are also currently working on a second phase for this pilot program to connect downtown and west side communities.
MLive reports “The Lexus RX 450h allows us to improve the comfort and overall experience for our riders with the amenities that come in the Lexus RX and second, it will enable our service area to expand and become more flexible,” said Laurie Remias, May Mobility’s director of marketing.
Ann Arbor-based May Mobility is the city’s primary partner on the autonomous vehicle experiment.
The current shuttles that are going out of service had a 5 passenger capacity, the new Lexus shuttles will only accommodate 3 passengers at a time, but the comfort level is greatly improved. These SUVs feature an LED sign letting people know if the vehicle is available for pickup.
This pilot program started in Grand Rapids back in July 2019 to assess the viability of self driving shuttles, initially was only supposed to last a year. Covid slowed things down for a bit but they ramped up again with Covid safety protocols in August 2020. They are still finalizing plans and the second phase of their shuttle plan would cost about a million dollars. The city of Grand Rapids is footing about $50,000 for the venture, and May Mobility would cover the remaining expenses.
So next time you are enjoying the downtown Grand Rapids area you may have to try out one of the new driverless shuttles. It’s a free ride, for now.
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