May Mobility announced that it is advancing its transit program in Grand Rapids, Michigan, to an on-demand phase. Customers will be able to hail May Mobility SUVs at “more than 20” pick-up points in a 1.36 square mile area of downtown.
I have mostly associated May with low-speed shuttles services for public transit. Covid-19 has heavily reduced the demand for public transit. May initially did roll out a low-speed, shared shuttle in Grand Rapids, pre-COVID. MLive reports that ridership dropped over 70% after COVID hit.
The transition to on-demand SUVs adds convenience to riders, at the cost of complexity for May. A low-speed shuttle traversing a fixed route isn’t especially convenient, but it’s much easier to implement than an on-demand ridehailing system.
May’s move to ridehailing represents a kind of intermediate step between shuttles and robotaxis. Riders can’t hail an SUV just anywhere, they have to go to a pickup point. That also greatly simplifies the implementation of the system.