GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The self-driving vehicle program in Grand Rapids has launched a free on-demand ride service in the downtown area.
May Mobility’s on-demand ride service marks phase two of the Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative.
Previously, the self-driving shuttles offered rides on a fixed route, taking passengers to and from locations along the Dash West route.
May Mobility views the service as a win-win opportunity, offering free rides for passengers while further testing the limits and benefits of self-driving technology.
“What we’re getting out of it is all this learning and growth that our technology is able to go through as we get feedback from the real world around us,” May Mobility field autonomy engineer Joel Hurd said.
To draw new passengers to the service, the company offered demonstration rides Tuesday, setting up outside the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.
“To make sure that Grand Rapids residents are really comfortable with the self-driving technology and don’t feel like they’re facing it by themselves,” Hurd said.
First-time passengers were excited to try out the technology, winning over some skeptics in one quick trip.
“When I walked in, me and a friend said, ‘No way,’” Shelia Eschenique said. “I asked a thousand questions and I cannot believe how advanced it is. I’m totally sold.”
Other riders said the self-driving vehicle was safer than they expected.
“I’ll be honest, it felt surprisingly cautious,” Alex Enszer said. “I think we even got honked at once, which I wouldn’t say is a bad thing.”
A fleet attendant sits behind the wheel for every ride and is able to regain control of the car. They are also there to talk riders through the autonomous vehicle technology.