Autonomous vehicle company May Mobility has launched its first driverless on-demand microtransit service on public roads in Sun City, Arizona in partnership with transit tech company Via.

Sun City is a planned community for “active, retired adults.” Launching a driverless microtransit service in such an environment isn’t as flashy as putting robotaxis on the streets of San Francisco or doing autonomous pickups and dropoffs at airport in Phoenix.

May Mobility’s strategy of integrating its autonomous microtransit service into existing public transit, in partnership with cities, has also laid the groundwork for future, more challenging deployments. 

By keeping its head down and doing small-scale deployments, May has so far managed to expand without drama. The startup has been operating shuttles within campuses and to designated stops along fixed routes in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Arlington, Texas. More recently, May launched an on-demand service in Grand Rapids, Michigan in partnership with Via.

Steve Miller, a risk management consultant specializing in autonomous vehicles at the Insurance Office of America, told TechCrunch he expects to see more controlled, low-speed shuttles and on-demand services like those offered by May and competitor Beep.

“What we’re seeing now as we talk about commercial deployment is the industry is really focused on trucking or shuttling, like a Beep or May Mobility-type shuttle,” said Miller, noting that developing Level 2 advanced driver assistance software for OEMs is also trending with AV startups.

For its part, May says its Multi-Policy Decision Making system is well-equipped to handle edge cases.

“I do think you’re going to see more of the shuttle-type operations just because there’s an endless number of cities and municipalities in the U.S., and there’s a lot of grant money that comes along with transportation,” said Miller. “So I think you’re gonna see interest from cities, airports, transit hubs — there are so many opportunties for plugging into mass transit, and I think that’s gonna be pretty lucrative.”

Sun City driverless launch

May Mobility’s first rider-only service in Sun City will give a “select group of early riders” the opportunity to request a pickup in one of the company’s Autono-MaaS minivans from a variety of stops, according to the company.

The free service will initially operate on public roads Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. A spokesperson for the company said expansion will be imminent, but it will depend on May’s careful and considerate approach to safety, rider feedback and community trust.

Riders can book the on-demand ride-hail service through May Mobility’s app, available in Google Play and the Apple App Store. Residents who are interested in becoming an early rider can apply online.

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