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University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships
University of Michigan Innovation Partnerships

Bringing Self-Driving Shuttles to the Streets: Welcome Aboard, May Mobility


When asked by reporters and other industry watchers to predict when self-driving vehicles will appear on our public roadways, my answer is generally that it will be sooner than we think, but not everywhere we’d like. Fully-autonomous Level 5 driving is still years away, where a vehicle is able to operate autonomously anywhere and in any conditions. The good news is that there are specific use cases and environments where autonomous vehicles are able to hit the roads now.

Today, I’m excited to announce one of these early efforts. Toyota AI Ventures has invested in May Mobility, a Michigan startup that’s already offering a self-driving microtransit service to communities around the country.

Headquartered in Ann Arbor, May Mobility was founded in early 2017 — and, within a matter of months, had successfully piloted its self-driving shuttle service on the streets of downtown Detroit — giving locals a chance to experience the autonomous future firsthand. The team is now looking to expand to other cities and states, using a fleet of low-speed electric Polaris GEM vehicles outfitted with sensors and May’s autonomous driving software.

Together with BMW i Ventures, we co-led May Mobility’s latest seed round to jumpstart their expansion plans and help them hire even more talent. Read more about their funding announcement in the company’s press release, and check out their job listings to join this stellar team.

May Mobility’s founders include CEO Ed Olson, former co-director of autonomous driving at Toyota Research Institute; COO Alisyn Malek, who oversaw the relationship with Cruise Automation while working at GM Ventures; and CTO Steve Vozar, a roboticist who most recently ran the University of Michigan’s (UM) APRIL robotics laboratory. You may have guessed that the company’s name is the “next thing” after their innovations at UM’s APRIL lab. The team is smart, experienced, passionate, humble, and tenacious — just the kind of entrepreneurs we love.

The May Mobility team is driven by a mission to make a positive difference in society now by enabling safe and convenient self-driving vehicles. Through in-vehicle autonomy and additional fixed technology deployed within a geo-fenced area, May Mobility is able to provide customers from enterprise campuses to residential developments to municipalities themselves with a safe way to move people around the areas where they live and work. It’s an important step along the path to full automation, and we’re honored to welcome May Mobility to the Toyota AI Venture portfolio.

Visit May’s website to see one of its self-driving shuttles in action, and to learn more about how you can join the team in Ann Arbor. If you’ll be at SXSW next month, you can explore the vehicle and meet the team, and at the Urban Land Institute’s Spring Meeting in May, you’ll be able to take a ride yourself. They are hiring experts in software engineering, robotics, business development, operations, and customer success.