City council approves plans for autonomous shuttle service for elderly, Detroiters with disabilities

What’s happening: Detroit City Council unanimously approved a $2.4 million contract between the city’s Office of Mobility Innovation and May Mobility this past Wednesday, July 26, paving the way for a pilot program that will connect senior citizens and those living with disabilities to their destinations via self-driving shuttles. The service, which will be available at no cost to the riders, is hoped to be operational come fall 2024.

What it is: The Detroit Automated Driving Systems (ADS) Shuttle program will provide free shuttle service to Detroiters aged 65 years old and older, and Detroiters living with disabilities. Residents can schedule rides or order on-demand service to doctor appointments, jobs, stores, and otherwise. The service will be accessible through a mobile app, website, or by telephone.

Timeline: A community engagement and research phase for the shuttle service began in earnest in January 2022, the former of which included in-person forums, online surveys, and more. Community outreach and recruitment, vehicle safety testing, and mobile app development will begin in fall 2023, with the hopes to have shuttles in service by spring 2024 and the program fully operational by that following fall.

How it’s happening: The public-private partnership Michigan Mobility Collaborative is leading the pilot program, with funding support coming from a U.S. Department of Transportation Automated Driving System Demonstration Grant, and philanthropic partners Knight Foundation and Delta Dental Foundation.

Why it’s important: “As mobility technology advances, it’s important we use it to make sure our most vulnerable residents can more easily access the services and amenities that are vital to their quality of life,” Mayor Mike Duggan says in a statement. “Detroit always has been a global leader in transportation innovation. It's the perfect city to develop this pilot project."

Got a development news story to share? Email MJ Galbraith here or send him a tweet @mikegalbraith.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by MJ Galbraith.

MJ Galbraith is Model D's development news editor. Follow him on Twitter @mikegalbraith.