Grand Rapids ‘really happy’ with driverless shuttle program

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A pilot program that brought driverless shuttles to downtown Grand Rapids has exceeded the city’s expectations, officials say.

“We’ve been really happy with how things have progressed,” Mobile GR and Parking Services Managing Director Josh Naramore told News 8. ”We’re about halfway through and we’ve seen about 40,000 rides so far.”

May Mobility driverless shuttles joined the DASH West route in July 2019 as part of a yearlong initiative. 

News 8 checked in for an update ahead of the January 2020 Michigan International Auto Show, where autonomous technology has become a major focus in recent years. 

“One thing we’ve been interested in seeing, from the city side, is just sort of the receptiveness because you never know until you put something out there. Are people going to use it? Are they really going to think about it? And I think it’s been received really well,” Naramore said. “I think that’s a benefit Grand Rapids has to other cities, is I feel like people are always willing. Maybe it’s because of ArtPrize or because of the commitment from all of the institutions to support things here, that people are willing to experiment and try something out.”

Since the shuttles’ launch, the city decided to shift operating hours from Tuesday through Saturday to Monday through Friday. 

The city also worked with Disability Advocates of Kent County to create an accessible shuttle available on demand

“That’s something the city is very committed to, is when we’re doing anything in the mobility innovation space that we’re not just making it for the able-bodied individual, that we’re taking into consideration the needs of everyone in the community,” Naramore said. 

He added a lot of the ridership is from Grand Rapids Community College and Kendall College of Art and Design students, given the route has stops close to campus buildings. 

Naramore hopes interest in the shuttles will continue to climb the second half of the pilot program. Any decision about keeping May Mobility shuttles after the initiative concludes in the summer will be discussed in the coming months.  

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