GRAND RAPIDS — A free autonomous shuttle service that launched last year in Grand Rapids but has been sidelined during the COVID-19 pandemic plans to resume service Aug. 31 with added safety precautions.
Since mid March, officials with shuttle operator May Mobility Inc. and the city have modified shuttle interiors to separate vehicle operators from passengers, while the passenger area is limited to one person or a single group. Riders will be required to wear face coverings.
The company installed an ultraviolet light treatment system manufactured by Holland-based GHSP in all eight shuttles to disinfect interiors between each rider or group. Additional disinfecting and air filtration has been added to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“I am so proud of the May Mobility team for coming together with our partners to find the right combination of cleaning technologies to get the shuttles back in service in Grand Rapids — this is a perfect example of how nimble and innovative we can be as a company,” May Mobility CEO Edwin Olson said in a statement. “The Grand Rapids shuttle program also demonstrates our company mission of delivering safe, efficient transportation options that will ultimately improve cities.”
The Grand Rapids Autonomous Vehicle Initiative launched a year ago and services more than a dozen stops along a 3.2-mile route around downtown. The pilot program is meant to test the potential for autonomous vehicles in Grand Rapids.
May Mobility Director of Business Development Tara Lanigan told MiBiz earlier this month that ridership was “quite high” prior to the pandemic, but that ridership will no longer be a “success metric” as the pandemic shifts the company’s focus.
“One of the biggest priorities is keeping shared mobility a priority and working around COVID to keep that as our roadmap,” Lanigan said.