Data & Expense Investment News Ridesharing Self-Driving Smart Cities Autonomous shuttle bus test driven in Downtown Detroit with plans to launch in 2018 By BMaaS Contributor Posted on October 11, 2017 5 min read View original post.DETROIT – An autonomous shuttle service was being tested this week in Downtown Detroit in a five-day pilot run. Ann Arbor-based May Mobility partnered with Detroit businessman Dan Gilbert’s Bedrock real estate firm to bring the GEM e6 shuttle vehicle to the city as a way of improving access and safety for riders needing transportation downtown. It’s expected to launch next summer. Edwin Olson, CEO of May Mobility, previously worked as the co-director for autonomous driving at Toyota and began thinking of ways to put self-driving vehicles out on the road as soon as possible, because of the need for a “short trip type of transportation.” “If we could get out and start carrying real passengers around, we would start learning a lot faster,” Olson said during a test ride Tuesday. “… Almost every corner, there’s a parking structure or a road that’s bigger than it needs to be. We think this sort of transportation system is going to allow us to shrink that. Use that space for green space or another restaurant.” While his company is only five months old, he hired a team of engineers who have been working on autonomous vehicles and robots for a decade to expedite the process. Additionally, May Mobility is certified to test the vehicles anywhere in Michigan, Olson said. The team began by learning everything they needed to know about short routes, including stop signs, traffic signals, turn sharpness and more. Those details were implemented in what Olson calls “know thy route,” a pre-programmed system the shuttle reads while in action. “A lot of autonomous cars look at road paint to understand what’s going on,” Olson said. That could lead to difficulties if roads are wet or covered in snow, he said. “We use the sides of buildings as our navigational landmarks. We designed it to handle all weather,” Olson said. The shuttles hold up to six people, running at 25 miles per hour, and are surrounded with sensors measuring distances from at least 100 meters away. The pilot route takes passengers on a 10-minute ride from the Bricktown Garage to the First National Building, then passes the edge of Campus Martius and circles back. May Mobility also carries a hefty insurance policy that would hold them accountable if the vehicle was at fault in a collision. The partnership with Bedrock will apply to all employees of Gilbert’s companies, who will able to use the service for free next summer when it officially launches. “The first benefit was to learn about new technology first-hand so we could plan for the future,” said Kevin Bopp, vice president of parking operations at Bedrock. “What better place to do this than in Detroit. It is the Motor City. We should be leading the charge, not learning about it from other folks.” In the longer term, Bopp said they intend to expand the service to clients outside the Quicken Loans family of companies. The focus will remain within a small, controlled downtown route but if the shuttle can maneuver well on protected surface streets, it could potentially expand beyond downtown, Bopp said.